Skip to main content

Full text of "Seaweed : a Cornish idyll"

See other formats








A Cornish Idyll 







F. K. 

1877 1892. 



" LORDY ! Lordy ! this be a weary world for the 
old and feeble. I sometimes wonder what us 
s'ould do without a bit o' scented snuff or a drop 
o' good tea wi' a shake o' green in it eh, Kit 

A patient-looking man, who sat near the fire 
with his head lowered, raised his eyes, and 
grunted out, "Humph ! " 

The woman was his mother, who having 
arrived safely at her eightieth year, still kept 
the desire for youth so vigorous that, when 
she had a sick stomach or a touch of " the new 
complaint they call the flenzy," she felt 
that God was giving her a test for her patience 
which really ought not to come except to those 
whom the Lord loveth well enough to take to 

2 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Himself. She sat month after month, crooning 
over the past or wailing at the future, some- 
times doing a bit of knitting, but chiefly patting 
her wrinkled hands one over the other, as if she 
had a rhythmic cadence in her mind, as she 
sighed " Lordy, Lordy," which name would cer- 
tainly sound irreverent on the lips of any but 
the Elect, since it implied not only endearment, 
but familiarity. 

" It's a whishe world, my son a whishe world 
and it's whishest when I do feel I'm a burden 
on you and Janet." 

She looked across at her son, and her old eyes 
brightened as she made one more attempt to 
draw the man out. She waited for a loving re- 
monstrance, but Kit only coughed. 

" It's well to be some folkses, that it be. It's 
lonesome fur you when you be left so long, wi'- 
out your woman to do chars fur 'ee. She've been 
gone sin' yesterday and even to me it do seem a 
month. I miss her bits o' tasties. You and me 
betwixt us can scarce fit up a cup o' tea, fur you 
be bef oolt in your legs and I be in the same strait 
in my back and arms. Lordy, Lordy, it is a 
whishe business, and I hope the good Jesus will 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 3 

soon rid me of it all that I do," she added with 
a whimper," fur I be nothin' but a burden now." 

Her son looked up with a faint smile on his 

"Yes, yes, it is a bit dull at times, sure 
'nough," he said, raising his voice in the musi- 
cal interrogatiVe so peculiar to Cornwall, " but 
it ain't so whishe for you as me, mother. I do 
belong to do somethin' more nor sit over the fire 
like a ash cat and wait fur a neighbour to drop 
in, so that in talkin* wid 'eu I can furget what 
sort I be now. It plagues me like a fever when I 
reckon it all up and know I shain't never be no 
good for nothin' ag'in. But what's the use o' 
jawin' over it. I mun bear it and tak' the best 
I can and stop snarlin'." 

He stretched out his hand for a thick length of 
iron which lay near, and raked some stray pieces 
of furze and faggots together on to the smould- 
ering fire, causing a blaze of light to spring up in 
the open chimney corner and illuminating both 
faces with sham laughter, as if the man and wo- 
man alike were grim jokes over which the flames 
might gibe. The man was partially paralysed. 
A mining accident had prostrated him with a 

4 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

disease the doctors called by a learned name, 
which Kit declared he could never quite roll 
round his tongue. Two years after his marriage 
this disaster had come upon him. 

The disease, while leaving him the use of his 
hands and arms, had paralysed both his legs, 
causing a total change in his way of life, for the 
once muscular miner and hardy man of all trades 
was reduced to making and mending nets as his 
only means of earning a living. 

Before his accident he was a good, capable 
workman, much counted upon in times of diffi- 
culty or strife as a temperate and dependable sort 
of man who carried more wisdom in his little fin- 
ger than most people could boast of having in 
their whole body. He had acquired the position 
of mentor in the small fishing village of Carn- 
wyn because of his short way of getting to the 
centre of a difficulty without the usual hour and 
a quarter of preamble which to the rough sailors 
and their wives seemed indispensable before they 
could come near the point at issue. 

It had been whispered more than once in the 
gossip of the village corners that Kit Trenoweth, 
or Clibby Kit had not been in foreign parts for 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 5 

nothing. In fact there was no saying that he 
had not got a tip or two from royalty in the 
course of his travels, for some of his ideas were 
quite " flash " enough for that to seem possible. 
Many a man and woman in the village had come 
in after Kit's accident had disabled him, to ask 
for advice on some domestic matter, "just to 
make Clibby Kit feel hisself a man again." He 
always gave advice readily and cracked a joke as 
well as any of them, even against himself, so that 
he puzzled his old mates sorely ; they could not 
tell whether the man was crushed or not, for he 
gave them no chance to pity him or to scorn 
him. His mother was the real trial to his good 
humour. He had promised many years ago that 
she should never leave his home, and that he 
would always provide for her, but now, kindness 
having come home to roost with a magpie ten- 
dency to be always droning out "Lordy, Lordy !" 
" Deary me ! " he often wished, without realising 
any infamy in the thought, that her " Lordy " 
would take her to heaven, where, he firmly be- 
lieved, she would enjoy the perpetual youth for 
which she so continuously and so wailingly 
craved. He loved her in a long-suffering way 

6 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

with a love born of habit but not of union or 
understanding. She was his mother, he was 
her only idol, and in that fact lay many of his 
worst griefs. She had thwarted him in his lar- 
gest longings because she loved him selfishly, and 
wanted him exclusively and he, in his rough 
way, had realised how she had strained the bond 
between them so tightly that nothing but habit 
held him to her. He was a rough sea-coast 
dreamer, and her snuff-taking and continual 
whining interrupted his fancies and his memo- 
ries. The firelight rested him and made him 
more a lover of his woman and the sea than ever. 
His mother, always sitting opposite to him by 
the fireside, jerked his fancies continually to the 
sordid contemplation of a cripple's life and a 
cripple's chances of being neglected and then 

" Kit ! " old Mother Trenoweth spoke sharply, 
and even shrilly this time. 

He raised his head once more and fixed his 
eyes on the wrinkled face before him. The thin, 
old hand with its dark blue veins attracted her 
son's eyes as she fumbled in her pocket for her 
snuff-box. It was one she prized, for Kit had 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 7 

picked it up some years ago when a wreck had 
wakened Carnwyu into hard work and new ex- 
periences, for many a home could date its miscar- 
riages and its seizures from the day when three 
vessels foundered on Scryfa beach, and only six 
men of all the crews were saved. Kit Trenoweth 
remembered the day well, and as he looked at his 
mother he thought of it. That snuff-box had a 
tale behind it for Clibby Kit, and he just remem- 
bered he had never told his wife how he came by 

"Kit do 'ee hear me?" 

"Yes, mother. What do 'ee want?" 

The old woman took a big pinch of snuff and 
spoke slowly and a trine cautiously, as if she 
were not sure how the remark would be re- 

"Do 'ee believe that Janet's seaweed messes 
do 'ee much good, Kit ? There be folkses," she 
went on rapidly, determined to finish her sentence 
before he could stop her, "who do say as your 
woman likes a jaunt now and then, and is over 
fond of fetching they weeds from up 'long instead 
of biding always wi' we and doin' our coddles 
and chars as she ought to do." 

" Folks be danged ! " 

8 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" Husht, boy, husht ! " site said, looking round 
as if the devil, for whom she had as yet found no 
endearing name might be within hearing ; " I 
canna let 'ee use swear words like that, a Chris- 
tian don't belong to use such oaths. You never 
did it afore " she was going to add " you mar- 
ried" but she changed it as she looked at his 
face, " afore you was maimed. It is 
a great affliction, Kit, my son, but the 
Lord do knaw best, and perhaps He've set 'ee on 
your chair there so that 'ee could be of more 
spiritual use to that flash woman o' yours than 
ever 'ee was able to be when 'ee did belong to go 
out from mornin' to night and was in full work 
and pay." 

She nodded her head and patted one hand over 
the other in a way which meant to convey to her 
son that she could say more if she dared. 

" Out wi' it, what do 'ee mean, mother ? Let's 
hear. What have 'ee 'gainst my woman?" 

" Nothin', lad, why nothin' at all. It is na 
me as do talk o' she. No, I allus pleads fur she, 
knowing what a power o' life young things do 
belong to have. I've heard many an ill word o' 
Janet, but I'm slow to mind it all, but you do 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 9 

knuw I've never thought she was the wife you 
would have took to, no, that I didn't, fur like 
it or not, Kit, they be right when they do say 
that she's a lass as is bound to make a man's 
heart heavy oue way or 'nother." 

"Mother, husht!" 

" There, there ! it's allus the way. Wives first 
ana mothers ain't nowhere. I s'all be shoved out 
o' the door one day and told not to put my finger 
in your flour sack again, like Molly Oliver was 
done to by her son ; things is coming that way, 
I b'lieve." 

Kit took out his pipe, slowly filled it, lighted 
up, and sent a great cloud of smoke between his 
face and his mother's, saying sullenly: 

u You b'lieve all the lies you can fall on, I 
reckon. Do nobody tell 'ee truth by chance ? " 

He laughed stupidly, as if he'd like to sleep if 
she would let him. 

" Iss ! Iss ! and it is the truth that fears me 
fur 'ee. You don't b'lieve as a big, bounciii' 
woman like Janet is going to bide true to a " 

" Mother, husht ! If I had the use o' my legs 
again I'd thrash every blooniin' jackass as dares 
to take the name o' my woman on his dirty 

10 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

mouth. Iss ! I'll use words strong 'nough to 
choke the passons and liards as come here 'cause 
they 'aven't enough to do wi'out taking up 
women's gossip. They fill your head wi' rubbish 
enough to deafen a Chinaman. I'm wild wi' it 
all naw ! " and he spit angrily into the fire. 
" I've listened and said nothin' for months, but 
now hear a bit o' my mind on this job just for 
once't. My woman's a darned sight handsomer, 
straighter, and" he laughed " decenter than 
any o' the maids up 'long or down 'long, a darned 
sight better by yards, mind that ! and that's 
just why she's got the women folkses agin she. 
Do 'ee think I don't knaw ? " He sneered and 
laughed roughly. " I ain't watched and walked 
wi' maids for nuthin', mind 'ee. I've been a 
hot un i' my time 'ee do knaw that and Janet 
warn't the first woman as I've kissed, but I guess 
she's the last." 

He bristled up and smoked hard, and his 
mother muttered beneath her breath : 

" I s'ouldn't like to say as you was the last 
man as Janet had made free wi' in any way; 
seems to me as females now-a-days 'as too much 
tether given to 'em, and by they as s'ould 'ave 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 11 

the whip-hand o' 'en too. I'm not one o' they 
sort, as believes a female can cap' en hersel' ; it 
ain't the law o' God as her s'ould, and a sensible 
man soon finds that out for hissel'. A woman 
must be captained same as a ship, or her'll run 
on to rocks sure 'nough. That's been your blun- 
der, my son. You began wrong wi' Janet, and 
let a high-spirited, lusty woman get 'ee fast 
under her thumb. The coortin' s'ould be sweet 
'nough, but a man s'ould feel the whip handle 
and flick the cord betimes, just to show the 
female as her lord can do summat more nor wor- 
ship a woman." 

She clasped her hands in a resigned way and 
looked steadfastly at Kit, who was smiling to 
himself. She was not sure that he had heard 
her, for he said slowly, and a little absently : 

" I'd weary work gettin' o' Janet. Lancashire 
women must be mixed up wi' different stuff, I 
reckon. It was as stiff a job as ever I tackled, 
and made me sweat often enough, I can tell 'ee. 
Howsomever, that time I was clipped tight, for 
I've never been able to make free wi' maids sin'." 
He snorted and smoked harder still. " I b'lieve 
sometimes it's that that do rile 'em that, and 

12 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Janet's face which makes 'em all feel as if they's 
had the pock. That's why they be all dead agin 
she. It's 'cause they be crazy jealous o' she. If 
she was a hedge maid, like lots I know here by, 
who go like cats creepin' after dusk for toms, 
and ready to tak' men or lads, whichever comes 
handiest, why, they'd leave she be. But no, 
'cause her'd put her fist right in the eye of any 
man as tried to kiss she and 'ud do a kind act for 
any maid as wanted it, they come here wi' their 
damned whisperin' and sniggerin', and I tell 'ee 
for truth, mother, they ain't fit to wash her 

" Well ! well ! young uns will talk, Kit, and I 
canna put wool i' my ears." 

" No ! I knaw that, but 'ee needn't wash out 
your earholes fur to listen better, and you be 
soft 'nough to harken and believe em " 

" No, lad, it ain't exactly as I b'lieve 'em, but 
she do open the road for talk about she. I don't 
bear no grudge agin she but 

" Iss you do, the lot of 'ee. I knaw all you 
would like to spit out about she. You 'ave got 
a grudge agin she. Say what you be a mind to. 
Do 'ee think 'cause I holds my tongue 1 don't 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 13 

knaw how you all hate she. Bah ! " he spat 
angrily on the floor and knocked the ashes from 
his pipe and then rubbed the bowl of it quickly 
against his sleeve as if he'd brighten other 
things than pipe bowls if he could do as he liked. 

" Thee art a bit teasy, Kit. Thee dost want 
Janet to come and lift 'ee on the sofa for a while. 
Thee 'ave sat there too long and art a bit 
cramped. Lordy ! Lordy ! I wish her'd come 
home and fit us up a snack o' supper, for I fancy 
a bit o' tasty, and I reckon that's why we're fret- 
tin' a bit one 'gainst the other." 

Kit kept up his rubbing and said stolidly and 
slowly, as if he had not heard his mother speak, 
" It's six year come Christmas Ere sin' I took she 
to wife, and you and old Mother Treglown have 
butted your two heads together ever sin' to 
try and ferret out if she be splay-footed, or has a 
devil's imp inside o' she. Iss ! you knaw I be 
speaking truth and you may ' Husht ! ' as 
long as you like. I'm going to give 'ee fur 
once't a bit o' my mind, and you've got to listen, 
for I'm danged sick o' all this talk over my 
woman. I've borne things till I'm real teasy at 
last. You hate she" he put the pipe in his 

14 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

pocket and clasped his hands behind his big neck 
" cause she's had a bit more learnin' than we 
belong to give our maids. I know she do use 
her brains freely, instead o' lettin' 'em addle for 
want o' big catches to try 'em on. She can't 
help that. It's her nature as much as it is for one 
dog to smell another. Our f olkses takes an hour 
to tell a tale and then tells everythin' but the 
tale i' the end, and Janet tells 'ee like the click 
o' a door all 'ee wants to knaw to once't. Same 
wi' fittin' a man's meat while one o' our maids 
'11 be fittin' up a bit o' fuggin meat, Janet '11 have 
a spread o' tasties fit for Bolitho himself to sit to, 
and it won't cost as much as a bit o' heavy cake 
when all's said and done." 

" Iss," nodded the old dame, and she dragged 
herself across the room to a side cupboard to get 
the teapot. 

" Iss ! it be true 'nough. Her can fit up meat 
better nor anyone I do knaw, sure 'nough, and " 
as she put the bread and butter on a little 
round table near the crippled man, " she do eat 
it hearty too. I marvels sometimes how a female 
can eat like a g'eat man as she do belong to do. 
It do take money, I tell 'ee, to keep she in plain 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 15 

victuals, not to speak o' coddles wliicli we do all 
like betimes." 

The man laughed happily. 

" That's it, mother. Hand me a drop o' tea 
and some bread. It gi'es me a hungry feeling 
like to think o' she and her eatin'. When I first 
fell in wi' she I thought, that's the maid for me. 
Her can eat and sleep and work, and I'll lay 
my head on it her can love on the same plan. 
Here goes, said I, and I went fur courtin' that 
woman on the same plan I'd go in for saving a 
ship, neck or nothin'. I'll have my man in 
that job it was a woman or go under for it. I 
knawed she as soon as I clapped eyes- on she wi' 
her strong legs and g'eat long hands and her 

rosy mouth as could settle a row in a " he 

snapped his fingers to indicate the time it would 
need for Janet to square things. " I don't won- 
der they hate she here. I knaw the sort o' maid 
you'd got cut out and dressed for me ; she do 
hunt hereabouts still. Iss ! you knaw she do, 
like a bitch mad wi' moonshine. Xo ! I didna 
want to marry a maid as 'ud sit at my feet and 
blink at me all day and purr at me all night like 
a chintzy cat. It shows what a darned lot you 

16 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

all know 'bout me, if 'ee do think as they sort o' 
women takes my fancy. Some more tea, 

Dame Trenoweth poured out the second cup of 
tea, and, as she gave it to him, she rubbed her 
trembling old hand through his thick hair and 
gently kissed him. Her Kit was her idol, and 
if she could only get him to talk she did not mind 
a bit of abuse. 

" Eh, Kit ! But you're over hard on the 
maids. It be true I would have liked 'ee to wed 
a maiden like Wilmot Tregarth, and it's true as 
'ee say as she's allus been over fond o' 'ee, but 
if 'ee don't take to such as she well, well, thy 
old mother won't make thy bed harder for 'ee to 
lie on." 

He handed her his cup and took out his pipe 
again and sucked it before filling it. 

" They sort o' women makes me sick," he mut- 
tered, " I could take my foot to 'em. The very 
scent of their skirts spells foolishness to me. They 
seems as addle-pated as gulls, and they simper 
and chatter 'nough to gie 'ee a sick stomach. But 

Janet " and as he said the word you could not 

tell whether the blaze from his match as he 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 17 

lighted his pipe or the vision his brain conjured 
up gave the fire and strength to his deep grey 
eyes " Janet, why her's never teased me once't 
nor tired me neither, sin' we was married. Her's 
like a squirrel, now ain't she, mother?" 

The old woman nodded. 

"Like a bit eel, too eh?" he asked with a 
merry twinkle in his eye as he blew a smoke 
wreath from his uplifted mouth. 

" Iss, iss, so she be." 

" And like a skylark on the Towans at day- 
break, eh, mother ? " 

" I don't belong to see they now, lad," she 
answered cautiously, for she had a dim idea he 
was taking her into a maze where she would find 
herself entrapped in the praises of Janet. 

"Well, her's like a rough colt, too and a bit 
of a tiger thrown in." He laughed loudly. " That 
last 'ee'll grant to she ? " 

" Iss ! a bit like that, but not quite so bad as 
'ee've painted she." 

The old dame grunted, rather bewildered at 
having her own weapons used in her son's hands. 

" No, not quite so bad." 

He chuckled. 

18 Seaweed: J. Cornish Idyll. 

" And down below all they things, mother, 
there's somethin' else she be like and no feller, 
unless he's been at a school, could get at it, and 
perhaps not then. I can't find no way o' tellin' 
o' it for it's like the lighthouse lamp in a gale. I 
can steer by en but I'm blest if I can whistle en 
into the boat wi' me. There you look mad again 
'cause I've got off the tiger tack. Oh Lord ! 
Mother ; I wish 'ee'd try and love she for 'ee 
do make she whisht many and many a time, 
though her says no word of it." 

" Well, well, Kit. I'll try to please 'ee for, as 
I said afore, I've nothin' agin the woman, and 
after all she do belong to thee and I s'ud behave 
better, but " with a sly glance at the man who 
was now beginning to mend an old brown fishing 
net with a tatting spool," I do miss the lill baaby, 
Kit, and I do want to dandle a brat o' yours on 
my knees afore the Lord do take me." 

She pulled out of her pocket an old red silk 
handkerchief and wiped her eyes. This was her 
trump card and she had saved it all 
months to play against Janet. She smoothed 
out her apron and made a grandmother's knee 
while she rocked to and fro as if hushing a 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 19 

child to sleep, but only " Lordy ! Lordy ! " 
was heard by Kit who never guessed 
that it was a lullaby. He threw down the net on 
the floor and the tatting spool with it. 

"Now we're at it," he said, and belched out 
volumes of smoke from his pipe. " She be chield- 
less ! That's your grudge agin she, be it? I've 
stopped your tongue afore now when you was 
going to run on that tack and now by God ! 
I'll stop 'ee altogether." 

He knocked some more loose furze into the 
smouldering heap with his hand, tightly clutch- 
ing the iron which he held, and as the flames 
danced round the wood he went on : 

" That woman's biggest wish i' this world is to 
have a chiel, mind that ! Her biggest wish, I 
tell 'ee. Her's made in bone and belly and breast 
for that job better nor all our maids i' Cornwall." 

His eyes kindled, and the smoking ceased as he 
twisted himself further round in his chair to face 
his mother. 

"I'd never guessed afore I knew she what a 
woman was. They maids I walked wi' teached 
me no more o' women o' Janet's mak' nor grey 
birds or bantams. I never shot a guess 

20 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll - 

afore I courted Jaiiet wliat a parcel o' 
feelins' could fit into a cream and white 
skin that looks as if her own finger nails 'ud 
scar it. Its just they things I think on as I sit 
here when I can't move about as I belong wo- 
men and maids and mothers and childer, and 
I'm blest if every one o' they don't all fit into 
the face of my woman." 

Seeing the bewildered look in his mother's 
face, he said, in a more gentle voice : 

" But that's not here nor yet there. Mother, 
do 'ee try to follow me a bit and you're bound to 
come round to my way o' thinking. I'd cut my 
hand off iss, I'd scoop out one of my eyes as 
the Bible tells we to do rather than I'd think 
hard or evil o' Janet. There is no evil in she." 

He knocked the ashes out of his pipe against 
the arm of his chair as he said it, and blew vigor- 
ously down the stem. 

" Her's a big brave woman as clings hard to a 
man " his voice was lowered, and he looked 
hardly at the old woman " who never can have 
no chiel ! There, mother ! " with a short, sharp 
breath " put that in your snuff to scent it wi', 
and strike out the sum agin Janet ; you've 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 21 

got to put that fault to me and not to she. When 
the neighbours come in next and set up their 
cursed cackliii' over maids and widders and 
chiels and passons, tell 'em from me that Clibby 
Kit can't get no chiel, and that Janet, his wo- 
man, do cleave to he in spite of it, 'cause she 
loves he, mark that ! and has vowed to love he 
till he dies and tell 'em too, if they can spell it 
out that ever sin' her knawed her could have 
no chiel, her's never mouthed over it neither to 
me, nor to any other body. Folks don't mag 
except o' pin pricks. I'm not blind and I watch 
she, as you do kiiaw well 'iiough, like a big fool, 
day in and day out. I watch that woman o' ours 
wi' chielder, and its 'nough to send 'ee mazed to 
see the look on her face. Virgin Marys indeed ! 
they faces ain't none o' em ripe enough to look 
like my woman." He laughed softly. " The 
chielder know she, know she for a full, ripe wo- 
man as wants soinethin' that she do belong to 
have and can't have noways as I can see. Watch 
her wi' beasts. It's just the same. It makes 
a feller feel a skunkin' hound to set fish hooks 
for starlings or hunt a wild thing happy i' the 
sun. Oh, mother ! do 'ee hear me ? I'm sore 

22 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

pressed to plead for she like this. I don't belong 
to be a whining ninny like I be this day, but 
you've set me 011 past my own tongue and I don't 
knaw myself at all. No, not at all sure 

His face, aglow with the energy with which he 
had spoken, grew softer. The lover had turned 
and transfigured the rough miner and educated 
him beyond the colleges and books he craved 
to know in order that he might be able to under- 
stand Janet. Old Mother Treiioweth cowered 
under his strange look, for Kit, her strong, quiet, 
and tender son, never talked to her in this 
feverish way, and she feared he was getting " not 
exactly " through sitting still all day. 

" Kit, my son, don't 'ee tak' on 'bout what I 
said. I meant no hurt to she. I'm a lone 
widdy," with a whimper, " and I did want to 
dandle a lill grandchiel on my knees afore I died 
but, if it is the Lord's will that 'ee cannot be a 
goodman to she as is your lawful wife, well, it is 
not for me to say one way nor another, and I 
didna mean to tease 'ee, sure 'nough. When 
a woman be barren, 'ee knows 'eeself that folks 
will talk and say that, if one chap winna do, she 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 23 

do often hanker after another, specially if her 
master bides always in the house place and she 
do go up 'long at times as Janet do. I don't say 
but what they weeds do 'ee good, but it be far for 
she to go fur they, and she so well set and lively 
in her talk, and not of this country neither." 

This last sentence was delivered with a little 
of the old venom, for here was another sore which 
could not heal, that her son had not chosen a 
wife from his own village and people. The man 

" It's no use gettin' teasy wi' 'ee, mother. I 
thank the Lord I've taken a maid from another 
place ; I've told 'ee over and over again, I'm 
none taken wi' these lurgy women hereabouts, 
giddy heads, wi' no sense nor no fling in 'em. I'm 
goin' to have forty winks now, and so let's leave 
Janet to hersel' ! Her'll be back betimes and 
her'll find me as mum as a gurnard if I don't 
take care. Don't 'ee mind the sharp things I've 
said to 'ee. I'm not exactly to-day. There's a 
gale o' wind brewing, I b'lieve, and that allus 
stirs my bile a bit, since I've had to be indoors. 

With this apology he leaned back in his chair 
and closed his eyes, a bit of "play-acting" he 

24 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

indulged in when he wanted to escape his 
mother's chatter. She slowly pulled herself to- 
gether and hegan to collect and wash up the tea- 
things, pondering in her old-fashioned way on 
the perversity of young blood. 


KIT TRENOWETH, after his complaint to his 
mother that he was in need of sleep, let his head 
drop on his breast and gradually sank into a 
quiet doze, but in between the waking and sleep- 
ing he thought about Janet and wondered in a 
dim way what kind of power had got possession 
of him to have altered his life so oddly. When 
Janet came near him it was as if all gentle and 
strong influences had come with her. It always 
bewildered him that he never tired of her, never 
ceased feeling towards her as if he had but newly 
possessed her. One of his mates had once told 
him that it was against nature for him and his 
sort to live always with the same woman, and he 
added that with his wife he had to pretend every 
now and then that she was not married to him, 
and for this purpose he took off her wedding ring 
and acted like a lover to her in order to stimulate 
( 25 ) 

26 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

his old passion for her. Clibby Kit never felt 
the need to lash tip his old romance for Janet, it 
never ceased spurring him, and he dwelt in the 
heaven and hell of an absorption which at times 
seemed to threaten his reason. At first he thought 
Janet had bewitched him when he found that a 
subtler passion followed on the mere physical 
spell of the early days, for he had seen so many 
of his mates bewitched and befooled by the fort- 
night, or by the year, and get over it, as they did 
a fever. They always settled down to a good- 
humoured married life, neither drunk nor starved 
as far as love was concerned, and they laughed 
knowingly at the first love frenzy in others which 
they reckoned to be the way of young boys, colts, 
and soldiers. But Janet had curled round Tre- 
noweth's nature, until at times he almost felt a 
feeling of suffocation in his joy at possessing her ; 
this was often followed by a mood of exaltation, 
which in his homely way he compared to "the 
feelin' a man has when he've saved a poor devil 
from the sea and he finds hisself warm and happy 
between white sheets again." Every morning 
when he wakened he thanked God she lay by his 
side. To feel her breathing near him soothed him 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 27 

to a quiet happiness which rarely grew less. She 
had educated him as love alone can educate. He 
knew little or nothing of books, nor did she, but 
the very scent of womanhood, which seemed to 
lull his baser passions as she moved near him, 
set him thinking about matters which had never 
before entered his head. He knew nothing about 
modern problems how could he? His first 
problem had been how to fill his own stomach. 
His second, how to feed his mother, and before 
he had solved these two the third problem, whicli 
of course he never recognised as one at all, ap- 
peared to him when he was working in the mines 
near Barrow, in the shape of this woman, Janet 
Nelson, with whom he fell in love, and whom he 
wooed with a strength and tenacity of purpose 
which bewildered her. Being a strong, capable 
Lancashire lass, she had several lovers, as 
"wenches" always had who had any "grit" in 
them, but Kit Trenoweth's southern ways, which 
like the modulations at the end of his sentences, 
charmed her native artistic sense with a feeling 
of grace and refinement, at last won her. She 
was swept away by his sincere passion for her, 
and the twitting of her companions who called 

28 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

her " chap " a " toff " only increased the attrac- 
tion towards the sober, tender, and yet passionate 
lover who came to her with none of the vulgar 
swagger or selfish bombast of the men around her 
who worshipped money and money-getting more 
than women. Six years ago he had fought for 
her and won her. Two years after their marri- 
age, he came back to his old Cornish home and 
accepted a vacant place in one of the few mines 
still offering regular work in Cornwall. 

Almost immediately upon his return to his 
old associations and work, when in full health 
and pay, an accident paralysed him, and he felt 
himself at times almost like a dead man. Janet 
had to mother him now, sometimes almost to 
nurse him like a child and carry him from chair 
to sofa in her strong arms. The tender and 
protecting influence came now from the woman 
to the man, for her old powerful sweetheart 
was no longer able to guard her ; he had to en- 
dure a cripple's life with its physical drawbacks 
and sexual disabilities. The virile lover was 
laid aside, and Nature, as if in revenge for her 
thwarted plan, had pressed the subtler spiritual 
laws of love-life into the foreground, and made 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 29 

the mental war against the physical until the 
poor human with his pipe, his net-making and 
his mother, presented a sorry spectacle to those 
who had known him as a strong, capable worker 
and organiser. 

It was this subtle transformation in the man 
and the lover which made him at times unable 
to tell if he had more pleasure or pain in this 
love of his. It tormented him on the days when 
he watched Janet's strong young face brighten 
as some welcome outsider poured out news or 
told of some village frolic ; he felt then that he 
was old, grey, and stupid, and she well, she 
seemed to him like a seagull and a mermaid in 
one, meant to fly, dash, strike out and fulfil her- 
self in ways he could not understand. He 
smoked the matter in his pipe, he said to himself 
sometimes, but the tobacco gave out before he 
could arrive at any definite consolation or con- 
clusion. Then, as he pondered over it once 
more, she would come and nestle close to him and 
caress him in her strong womanly way, lay her 
long firm hands on his shoulders, and tell him 
what a good fellow he was, and then he felt 
happy, very happy, until the devil put it into 

30 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

his head to argue with himself that if she had 
told him he was a bad lot, but that she loved him 
the bad lot better than anything else in the 
world, he would hiave been really happy and for 
a long time. Once as they sat together after the 
old dame had gone to bed she had looked at him 
in a strange way and her face seemed tired and 
a little pale, too, and he had put his arm out, 
and rubbed the back of his hairy hand on her 
smooth long fingers, and lingered over the one 
where the ring told him he was safe. She 
turned round suddenly and threw her strong arm 
round his neck and held him so tightly that the 
pressure hurt him, and she said thickly : " I 
wonder what I'd do without thee, mon " ; and he 
could not answer her, for it was as if his very 
blood had danced in his flesh. She rarely said 
words like that ; her northern training expressed 
itself more in gesticulation, and she could rarely 
speak when she felt deeply. 

Kit hungered often for a rough Lancashire 
love speech, but it seldom came. He had grown 
very restless these last two years ; he wondered 
if books or clever people could help him over one 
or two puzzles which bewildered him. He was 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 31 

growing afraid of the silence Janet always kept 
about having no child ; he felt nervous about it 
as he might of a ghost. Her reserve, and her 
wild joyless laughter over trivialities, which he 
had noticed at times, worried him, and he dared 
not question her for fear of putting his own 
dread into her mind in case his suspicions were 
only the result of his doting passion. The real 
truth lay in the knowledge, that grew upon him 
in some undefined way, that the woman was 
more than his match. 

The girls with whom he had flirted, the women 
familiarity had led him to understand his 
mother, for instance were not like Janet. They 
had no inflexions, no modulations worth speak- 
ing of ; they were within the octave, as it were, 
and an occasional tuning up at Christmas, at 
Feast times, or when a revival took place, was all 
they needed to keep them both healthy and virtu- 
ous. Love had sharpened Trenoweth's wits, and 
he was puzzled about Janet's oddities, until he 
had once or twice come nearly to the point of 
having a talk with the " passon," of whom he 
stood in awe as more or less belonging to the 
" gentry," to whom a poor man could not easily 

32 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

pour out his human difficulties. He felt it would 
be a good deal easier to beg for parish relief than 
to ask advice on a subject he had pondered over 
until it had become a part of Janet in his 
thoughts, and would not bear talking over any 
more than the big brown mole under her breast 
or the clothing she wore in the night time. 

He smoked and made his nets and cursed him- 
self for a doubting fool when he felt an icy 
shiver run over him .as he said to himself : " Her's 
above the likes o' we her'll find it out one day, 
and then well, what then ? " These reflections 
generally ended in his declaring with astound- 
ing emphasis that Janet belonged to him and to 
him alone, and he was but a poor-hearted fellow 
to addle his brains with silly fears. 

One day, after an hour spent in thinking over 
these things, he had suddenly called out gruffly : 
" Come here, wench, and kiss your lawful man, 
we're spliced for good, mind, as you women say 
up 'long ; you can't get out o' it, Janet my lass." 
Janet had pondered over this speech and won- 
dered if Kit would ever become like Nathan Tre- 
weeke, who ordered his woman about as if she 
had neither soul nor body of her own, and at last 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 33 

gave her two black eyes in the endeavour to prove 
that man is made on purpose to master a woman 
and after that to praise God and glorify him for 

Kit Trenoweth had never spoken so strongly 
or at such length in his life as he had to his 
mother that afternoon, and the mental effort 
had exhausted him. He dozed as he thought 
over Janet and longed for her return. His brain 
and spine seemed alive and as if tiny hot insects 
were crawling over him, and picking with teeth 
like needle-points the very marrow out of his 
bones. His manhood and his self-control seemed 
to be fast ebbing away, and he felt that if he did 
not see Janet he should soon be " mazed." His 
wife had been gone a day and a night, but it 
seemed weeks to Kit. She left home so rarely 
that he thought when she had gone that he had 
some idea of what it would be like if she died, or 
he died, for he could never imagine that even in 
heaven he could be anything but lost and 
" leery " without Janet. 

Kit scarcely realised how his whole religioi) 
had been unconsciously modified and in some 
respects utterly changed through his love for 

34 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

this woman Janet. The world, which he once 
affected to look upon as a mere temporary dwel- 
ling place, had become his heaven simply because 
Janet moved in it. The Golden Jerusalem, the 
judgment seat, and the harp and crown which 
had always formed, as a good Wesleyan, a back- 
ground to his image of God and Christ, had 
imaged themselves very faintly in these latter 
years, and he had once, in a state of half waking 
and sleeping, caught himself imagining heaven 
with a woman on the Throne, crooning to little 
children who were playing at her feet. It was 
getting indeed time that Clibby Kit should con- 
sult his " leader," for Love and Religion were be- 
coming hopelessly entangled in his simple brain. 


" WHO be there ? Come in, if you please," 
called Mother Treiioweth, as a knock was heard 
at the door. " Oh ! be it you, Loveday ? Well, 
my dear, I'm real glad to see 'ee. Sit 'ee down. 
It be so mortal dull at times here that I'm right 
glad to have a neighbour drop in. Sit 'ee down 
tak' a chair i' front o' the fire Then as 
she caught sight of her neighbour's face, she 
said quickly, " Why, what's wrong wi' 'ee, 
woman ? " 

"What's wrong? My gosh! What's right, 
you might be askin' ! Be Janet in ? " 

Loveday Penberthy peered round the room as 
she asked the question, and seeing Trenoweth 
apparently asleep, she smiled and jerked her 
thumb in an interrogative way over her shoulder 
towards the door by which she had just entered, 
at which gesture Mother Trenoweth shook her 
( 35 ) 

36 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

head, and sighed wearily : " Lordy ! my dear, her 
bean't back yet." 

" My blessed life ! " ejaculated Loveday, the 
gossip and ne'er-do-weel of the village ; " I be 
near faintin', that I be ; I can 'ardly stan' up- 
right at all" to prove which she leaned her 
stout person against the end of the window seat, 
folded her large bare arms, rested them on her 
capacious stomach, and let all her weight fall on 
one leg in her endeavour to ease both mind and 

" Whatever be the matter, Loveday ? Is Jan 
not so well agin ? " 

" Oh ! Jan ! he be right enough, and if he 
warn't I don't knaw as I s'ud fret over much 
'bout he. Lazy lump ! He don't earn tuppence 
a week all told, and I've to go down 'long o' 
Mazes to wash and char and do coddles for he to 
guzzle hissel' out wi' baccy and meat. I'll have 
'ee knaw, Mrs. Trenoweth, that I'm fairly done 

" Mazes," said the old woman, " Mazes ? who 
be they then? But sit 'ee down, Loveday, sit 
'ee down, woman, and tell me all 'bout it." 

" I'm feared I s'll be upsettin' o' Kit there." 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 37 

"No, you, wain't; sit 'ee down and don't 'ee 
mind me ; mag on a bit it'll do the old 'un good. 
What's wrang wi' 'ee, now?" asked Kit quietly 
from the corner, for Loveday's loud voice had 
brought him back to ordinary matters. 

" Why ! I'm fair befoolt wi' they up 'long 
folkses, they as have took Maister Lander's house 
up by the south cove. I cain't tell what be 
comin' to pass they strangers do seem to tor- 
mint the life and soul out o' we dacent folkses 
wi' their flash notions and lurgy ways and " 
with a sneer " as mean, my dear, as mean as 
inisards, every one o' they sort." 

" They've sent for 'ee then to do their chars 
for 'en ? " asked the old woman. 

" My Lord ! I s'ud jist think they 'ad." 

Loveday threw up her head and sniffed the 
air with impatient scorn. She had taken off 
her flat black hat and thrown it on the floor, 
when she caught sight of the door which was 
being slowly opened from outside. 

" Here comes Nan Curtis ; her'll tell 'ee 'bout 
Mazes, fur her had one o' they lodging wi' she 

Nan Curtis opened the door and peeped in the 

38 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

room in the familiar way neighbours have with 
one another. She stepped into the house place, 
and sat on a bench opposite Kit, with a friendly 
though rough greeting to him. 

" How be 'ee, old man?" 

" 'Bout same, Nan thank 'ee." 

Nan wore a white sun bonnet, which partially 
shaded her rough, bony face ; the skin was yellow 
and coarse, and but for an expression of intense 
animation she would have been positively repel- 
lant in her ugliness. She continually exposed 
large yellow tusks, for she seemed to yap like a 
dog as she talked ; the same sound did duty for a 
laugh or a grunt of disapproval. She sat square 
and taut, braced up for a scold or a kind of rat- 
tlesnake gossip at any hour. She was always 
clean and even prim in her dress, and her shrew- 
ish tendencies and quick retorts made her re- 
spected and at the same time feared by her slow 
and easy-living neighbours. She and Loveday 
were great cronies, for they met on a common 
ground: both kept their native vindictiveness 
on the surface and both were willing at any hour 
to do a real service for a neighbour. Many a 
racy story, by which the general world is the 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 39 

loser, did these two women tell one another over 
two-pennyworth of the best gin. If ridicule and 
denunciation could have re-constructed a com- 
munity, Loveday and Nan would have managed 
the whole task over one noggin of the best Ply- 
mouth. Nan sat opposite Kit, and smoothed out 
her clean apron over her dark green dress with 
her small energetic hands. Her upright, defi- 
ant attitude and her straight bust, which did 
not seem to offer either tenderness or forgiven- 
ness to the fallen or strayed, suggested a grim, 
stern humour, and a stolid common sense which 
contrasted strongly with Loveday' s lazy slouch, 
ill-kempt hair and voluminous bosom, which 
scandal declared had more than once bidden wel- 
come to vagrant lovers. ISTan turned to Love- 
day, and preened herself for a tale of woe and 
frolic in one. 

"What's that yer was sayin', Loveday? Be 
you on the Mazes' tack? Lord I 'ee've been to 
char for they ain't 'ee ? " 

A toss of the head was all the answer Loveday 
gave but she looked fixedly at her friend for a 
moment, and then winked, at which the other 

40 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" They be .parties sure 'nough. How did 
they sarve 'ee, then?" 

" Sarve me ! Why, woman they sarved me 
so spicey that I can't sit down on my rump, I'm 
that sore." She rubbed affectionately the af- 
flicted portion of her body and coughed as she 
saw Kit smiling to himself in the corner. " My 
dear life ! I cain't even move my arm to my head, 
I'm that stiff ; I cain't think what up 'long folk- 
ses think we's made of. Naw ! " settling down 
into a heap in order to tell her tale with more 
ease. " Just listen ! I goes to they Masses fust 
thing i' the mornin', and then it's fust one thing 
and then it's another, clack and clatter from day- 
break to midnight. My dear" with a loud 
laugh and addressing Nan " they do belong tr> 
have their knives claned wi' some stuff or 'nother 
every day, every blessed mornin' I tell 'ee, and 
I've got to shine their bloomin' shoes, not once't 
a week, mind 'ee, but every day." 

" Lordy, Lordy ! " sang the old dame, " would 
'ee believe it, then ? One 'ud almost think they 
made a particular habit o' findin' mud to dirty 
'em. It ain't exactly seemly, seems to me, to 
dirt all over your shoes every day; I s'udn't a 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 41 

thought gentry would act so like working 

" Gentry ! they sort gentry ! my blessed ! They 
ain't no gentry ! They do save up every crum- 
ble, and 'cause they can hitch up a veil to their 
hats o' Sundays they looks down on we folkses 
as 'as to work for they. Darned upstairts ! that's 
what they be." She beat her foot impatiently 
on the brick floor and looked envious. 

" You be right there, Loveday. They sort 
mak's their money up along and comes down 
along to save it on we. Ah ! ah ! ah ! Well, what 
else had 'ee to do ? " 

" Why, its all fetchin' and carryin' and bow- 
in' and scrapin', and they expects a bloomin' lot 
o' mag wi' it, too. They's for ever ' beggiii' 
pardin' and wants me to do the same most all 
day and for nothin' too. I cain't mak' it out. 
If they do hutch up too close to one 'nother they 
smirks thisards" imitating an inclination of 
the head and a slow drawl ' beggin' o' your par- 
din ! ' Lawks ! look at the old 'un ; her's doiii' it 
too," for the old woman was so keenly following 
Loveday's tale that she had unconsciously 
smirked and made a movement with her lips. 

42 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" It's all 'nough to turn your stomach, and I said 
right out once't that I'd beg no pardins to no- 
oiie for doing' no wrang to 'em ! I knaws gentry, 
Clibby Kit," with a direct look at the cripple, 
" I knaw they well 'nough when I see they 
and if I do any person a hurt I'm not so over- 
proud but what I'll say I'm sorry for it, that is, 
if I be sorry, you knaw" with an apologetic 
smile at Nan "but they must be fittey like if 
I'm to bend my pride to they and not upstairts 
as cain't fairly pay for a drop o' milk when they's 
drunk it." 

A loud laugh came from Nan at this point, 
for she knew the farm where the milk was 
bought, and she could back Loveday's assertion 
with another tale about unpaid debts. 

" Iss ! Iss ! but what's the good o' keep beggin' 
pardin, Loveday ; what's it fur at all ? " asked 
the old woman. 

" Summat to do, I s'ud reckon. I told Mrs. 
Maze pretty quick that I warn't goin' to beg 
pardins to no one, and that her bluid and mine 
I guessed was maistly of the same colour both 
on us seemingly has red bluid in we and not 
black, leastways I ain't noane inside o' me, and 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 43 

then I up and told she if anyone was to beg par- 
dins, it was she and not me. Iss ! I did," em- 
phatically, for there was an incredulous smile 
creeping over Nan's face. " I just up and said 
they very words to she, and why ? " 

Loveday drew her chair closer to the fire and 
crossed her legs. 

"Would you believe it of the mean woman? 
They had a roast sent into the dinin' room for 
their sels, and what do 'ee think was put abroad 
on the table fur me ? " pointing with a fat finger 
to her capacious chest. 

" Nay ! I canna guess," said the old woman, 
whose eyes gleamed at this rare chance of village 
gossip. " What were it then ? " 

" Heavy cake, I s'ud say," snarled Nan, whose 
experiences in the gluttony of lodgers and " up- 
'long" people was sad. 

" No, woman ; it weren't even that. It were 
a rusty herrin' and a bit o' stale bread." 

" Lordy, Lordy ! did anybody ever hear the 
likes o' that, but I've allus heard that the stran- 
gers and artises be very sparey," said Mother 

"Divil tak' the bastely misards," grunted 

44 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Nan. "What did 'ee do? Did 'ee eat en at 

" Eat en ? " with a fine scorn. " I just took en 
right under her nose when her'd comed out o' 
the dinin' room stuffed full o' flesh meat, and I 
said to she : ' Here, missis ! yer cat must be a 
stranger, too, I reckon ! her don't tak' to rusty 
herrins neither do she? Hers waitin' seemly 
fur the roast, I'm thinkin'.' " 

Loveday clasped her hands round her crossed 
knee and chuckled. 

" Drat 'ee ! Did 'ee say that fur sure ? " cried 

" Iss ! sure 'nough that I did, to try fur to 
shame she. And that's not all, my girl," and 
Loveday clapped her hands and changed the po- 
sition of her legs. She screwed up her eyes as 
if in pain as she did this ; winked and nodded 
to the two women and looked across at Kit. " I 
can scarce move easy yet : it's the butter makin' 
and the scrubbin' all to once't. Think of a shil- 
lin' a day for to char and rub and scrub and 
mak' butter as well. You knaw I can wash well 
'nough ; I've done it anyways for the last fifteen 
year and more eh, Nan?" 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 45 

" That 'ee can, my dear," answered Nan, " and 
git the dirt out o' the clathes wi'out any muck 
put i' the watter to rend 'em abroad as soon as 
they're on a body's back agin. Didna your 
washin' sut en neither?" 

Loveday put her hands to her sides and 
laughed loudly. 

" Oh ! my Lord ! I'll leave 'ee knaw a thing or 
two. If Kit there don't like what I'm goin' to 
say, I cain't help en, but somehow now I allus 
look on 'ee more like a woman than a man, wi' 
allus bein' in like and listenin' to our mag 
eh?" She looked kindly at Kit. 

" Iss ! I suppose you do. I'm not harkin' 
much, Loveday, and if you don't talk too loud I 
cain't hear 'ee, if it's summat as belongs to wo- 
men folkses." 

He glanced at Loveday with a look which 
combined repulsion and familiarity. 

" Well ! my dear," addressing Nan, " after I'd 
got through all they chars and the butter and 
washed and dried and mangled all they clothes 
(it took me three days' slavin' like a nigger till 
I'm a mass o' sores, I tell 'ee) what do 'ee think 
that pert Miss Maze had to say to it all? My 

46 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

blessed life ! Her coomed into me like this if you 

Loveday got up and mimicked fine ladydom 
so well that all three shouted with laughter, and 
Kit chuckled as he called for more tobacco. 

" ' Pen ! ' (the cheek o' she cuttin' my name i' 
two like that) ' Pen ! ' says she," and the rough 
loud voice sank to a mincing treble, " ' You have 
not starched the legs o' my drawseses, and Ma 
and me allus likes our laces starched.' Naw ! 
what do 'ee think o' that fur lustful pride?" 

"My dear life!" from Nan. "'Ee cain't 
mean that, sure 'nough ! " She rocked back- 
wards and forwards and showed her large yellow 
tusks with delight and amazement. 

" Did 'ee ever ! Oh ! my patience on us ! 
starch i' their drawseses ! well ! well ! they be 
up-long notions ! " 

"And that ain't all," amicably continued 
Loveday, " but it's the same wi' the lace on their 
night shifts too, and all sorts o' different clathes 
as they do wear ; it ain't only i' the legs o' their 
drawseses, I can tell 'ee," with a mysterious 
wink at Nan. 

" Lordy, Lordy ! I wonder they can sleep i' 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 47 

comfort," said the old woman, moving her neck 
from side to side as if she could feel the stiff laces 
like a halter round her throat. 

" What did 'ee say to she when her'd asked 
'ee to do such an unbeknown thing as that, 
Loveday?" queried Nan. Loveday had seated 
herself again and was gazing with the air of a 
conquering heroine into the fire. 

" I said to she, l Starch i' drawseses, Miss 
Maze ? ' Eduth, her maiden name be, and after 
that I'd a real mind to call she that to her face. 
' Iss ! ' says I to she. ' Iss ! I'll put starch i' your 
drawseses, and on your backside too, if you've a 
mind to ! ' " 

" Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! Darn 'ee " from Nan. " That's 
one o' the best you've ever given they sort, Love- 
day. They cain't get to the windward o' you. 
What did the fule say to 'ee then? " 

" Well," answered Loveday, modestly, " I'm 
not altogether sure her heard that last, else her 
didn't quite pick out what the meanin' o' it 
were, but her went to the cupboard and gave me 
the starch, and," with a broad grin, " her's got 
starch 'nough in her drawseses now as' 11 let she 

48 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

knaw what my body <do feel like after doin' 
chars 'nough fur a month fur one day's pay." 

" Up-long folkses ain't all so near as Mazes be, 
Loveday, yer must mind that. Do 'ee recollect 
that poor devil Macnab as lodged wi' me last 
winter? I tended he like my own chiel. He'd 
no sich ways 'long o' he I can tell 'ee. He was 
as free to help 'ee as to laugh at 'ee, but sickly 
sure enough." 

Nan took the corner of her white apron and 
blew her nose vigorously. 

"I did take to that feller, and I'm whisht 
many a time when I do think o' en, poor fule." 

" What's become o' he sin' he went to foreign 
pairts?" asked Loveday. 

" My gosh ! ain't I never told 'ee ? Well !- 
well ! I b'lieve I took it pretty hard and said 
nothin' of it for long 'iiough. My blessed life ! 
he be turned into a pepper-dredge, so I've 'eard !" 
she beat the ground quickly and fiercely with 
her foot as she continued in an injured tone ; 
" That's a poor 'nough end for a fellow to come 
to after all the slavin' I did for en. I've rubbed 
that man's back, which was nothin' to begin 
wi' but a loose sack full o' nails, I 'ave rubbed 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 49 

en till it were blistered many a time and made 
eii coddles enough to frighten 'ee to tempt his 
appetite. Old Nancy Nanquitho's stuff did 
nothin' at all for he. I don't want to say nothin' 
fur to dishearten Kit there, but it seems to me 
that that seaweed oil is nothin' but a snare to 
trap a fule's money." 

" P'raps the oil bean't much worth for a de- 
cline, Nan," answered Kit. " It be good, I 
b'lieve, for seizures and rheumatics, leastways 
that's what her's told Janet that it's maistly 

Loveday winked at Nan and said surlily. 

" Some folkses is o'er fond o' jawing to your 
woman, Kit, and they do feed her mind wi' un- 
truths I'm fearin'. I don't b'lieve mysel' in 
folkses livin' i' huts when there's housen near by 
to be had for almost nothin'. If I was thee, 
Kit, I'd stop Janet from going too much wi' the 
likes o' Nancy Nanquitho. There be folkses 
near by, as 'ud place her character i' the bottom 
of a beer mug and then declare you couldn't find 
en, drunk nor sober." 

The old woman clasped her hands and turned 
her thumbs one over the other as she watched 

50 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

her son's face, but she said no word for or against 
the old witch doctor. 

Kit laughed. 

" Perhaps the woman 'ave melted her charac- 
ter into the seaweed stuff and it'll come out by 
and by in we. My legs is better for it, that I'll 
swear. There be a damned sight more witches 
livin' i' housen than i' huts, let me tell 'ee." 

Nan and Loveday laughed at this sharp hit at 
the village women, but the old dame feared that 
they were getting on dangerous ground. 

" 'Ee was joking, Nan, surely wan't 'ee, when 
'ee said us Maister Macnab was made into a pep- 
per-dredge ? " 

" No ! I warn't jokin' at all ! not a bit of it. 
Some feller wrote to one o' they artises as is stay- 
ing wi' Jane Hocking, and by all accounts he'd 
seen it done and wrote to tell she all about it." 

" My blessed ! " grunted Loveday, " it do sound 
like some devil's trick or 'nother ; I s'ud 'ave 
thought the police 'ud have stopped sich goin's 

" Don't 'ee see, Loveday, my dear, they burnt 
en first ; took en, poor feller, and put en inside o' 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 51 

a big oven, so they do say, and fairly roasted the 
poor devil until well my dear life ! its awful 
to think on it, until he was nothin' but dust and 
ashes like that there ! " pointing to the white 
ash from the burnt-out wood which lay in a heap 
on the red tiles of the hearth place. 

" Lordy, Lordy ! it do fair make a body's flesh 
go crawly; it's worse than murder, seems to 
me," wailed Mother Trenoweth. 

" Iss ! so it be. I lies awake at nights some- 
times and thinks o' he afore he went away, and 
I'm forced to get up and tak' a drop o' hot ginger 
to soothe my stomach. The thought o' that deal- 
man bein' rent limb from limb wi' no soul by to 
save en makes all the wind i' niy stomach fly to 
my head. They say as after he was burnt to 
nothin', as you might say, they took what was 
left o' en and poured en into a pepper dredge, I 
could hardly credit it, but they as told me says 
as this sort o' buryin' is coming over to we from 
foreign pairts, but I don't 'ardly b'lieve it." 

"Well! I hope to the Lord it won't 
be made into law afore I'm safely under 
the ground. I s'ud feel as shamed as a 
maid to 'ave strange men a-fingerin' my 

52 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

corpse, I can tell 'ee. I hope I may be 
orderly and becomin'ly buried when my time 
is over," and Loveday's big eyes looked grave 
and nervous at the prospect of anything but a 
churchyard grave. 

" I do fervently hope that I may have a proper 
hearse and bearers," said the old woman so- 
lemnly. " Lordy ! Lordy ! it do give 'ee grave 
thoughts upon the resurrection, neighbour, when 
'ee do think of a poor body bein' ground down 
like snuff as that poor man was done by. It do 
fairly make my skin crawl to think o' sich a 
thing ! Lordy ! Lordy ! have mercy upon we ! " 
and her old head went from side to side as she 
thought of her stocking stored away between the 
mattress and the tie in the upstairs room. This 
stocking was nearly full of silver coins saved 
from " oddments "as she called the gifts given to 
her by the district visitors and also the pence she 
occasionally earned for sitting to stray artists. 
Next to the ambition to have a grandchild came 
her wish to have a decent burial. She bright- 
ened many a weary day with the thought 
of how, thanks to her foresight about 
money matters, she would be carried in state 
to her last resting-place, amid the hushed won- 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 53 

der of her neighbours, in a hearse with big, 
black, nodding plumes. 

Kit Trenoweth became half unconscious of the 
gossip of the women ; his eyes rested on the well- 
known line of coast which he could plainly see 
through the window from, his seat in the 
chimney corner. Since his illness the colour and 
life of the fishing village had been his chief 
amusement ; he could see the herring and mack- 
erel boats come in, and as he heard the clang of 
the bell of the seller he knew exactly what chaff- 
ing and bartering was going on, and guessed by 
the gestures of the men the state of the market 
on the various days when big catches were 
brought in. Just now he vaguely heard Nan 
describing how she had put green oil on her 
lodger's throat, how three doctors' " prints " had 
been administered to him at once and all had 
failed to save him, and the voices seemed far 
away like echoes from a distant hill. He was 
gazing intently at a young sailor on the beach 
who was throwing iip a big ball, while grouped 
round him were the lasses and lads of the fishing 
village alternately jeering and cheering him. His 
lithe body and quick movements rivetted the 

54 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

crippled man, whose muscles tightened with 
each successful catch of the ball. The sun was 
setting behind a large black rock; the water 
rippled and shimmered in a blue listlessness as 
sky and sea mingled into one colour. The rough 
slouching figures of the idling fishermen, who 
leaned against the posts and sea-wall smoking 
and chaffing, became transfigured in the golden 
tints of the sunset, while they woke into a ro- 
mantic beauty and freshness the loose-throated 
bronzed and stalwart youngsters who had come 
out to do a bit of courting and idling before the 
night set in. Kit watched the colours redden 
and deepen and was soothed at the scene before 
him. The wavelets crept almost noiselessly on 
the beach and seemed to lilt a love-song to him. 
The village gossip near him grew faint, and 
he felt that the world after all was a fresh flower- 
filled valley where a man could rest himself and 
love his fill. The swish-swash of the sea, and 
the laughing voices of the men and maids gradu- 
ally drove away his irritable mood, and he smiled 
happily as his eyes rested on the setting sun, and 
noted how the light sparkled on the oars of a 
few fisher boats idling in the bay. The brown 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 55 

sails of one or two mackerel skiffs gave a sombre 
touch to the blue fairyland before him. Suddenly 
his fingers clutched the stem of his pipe ; round 
by the harbour he had tracked the slow, swing- 
ing walk of a woman, and he leaned back in his 
chair and hummed softly. 


" HERE ! My blessed life ! Kit ! waken up, 
man ! I've just spied thy woman along the 
quay," said Loveday, sharply. Then, in an aside 
to Mother Trenoweth, " and time 'nough, too, I 
s'ould say ; seems to me as we don't knaw all as 
goes on over they weeds. I b'lieve its maistly 
a passil o' cunning, and that physic ain't noane 
in it at all, naw ! " with a twist of the lips and 
a rough laugh. " I've heered a sight o' things I 
s'udn't care to speak on o' Janet's ways wi' 
strangers, I can tell 'ee." 

" Darn 'ee ! " interrupted Nan. " L'ave the 
woman be ; divil tak' 'ee, Loveday ! if her's 
wrang, well, her's wrang and her fault '11 track 
she sure 'nough. It fair turns my blood to cab- 
bage water to always hear the unfavourablest side 
to a woman's name. L'ave she be, I say, and 
don't make strife i' another body's house," with a 
( 56 ) 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 57 

side look at Kit who was quite unconscious of 
what they were saying. Mother Trenoweth 
shook her head wearily. 

" Lordy ! Lordy ! I allus feel mysel' as if a 
power o' trouble was a comin' on this house. I 
do say many and many a time that it be poor 
luck for a man to tak' a wife from up-'long 
strangers who don't belong to worship nor yet 
to live as we do hereabouts." Then in a lower 
tone she said to Loveday, after glancing at the 
unconscious face of her son : 

"Hark 'ee, woman ! I do wonder what 'ee 
have heerd 'bout Janet ; do 'ee come in one day 
fur a cup o' tea, and while I be fittin' o' it up 'ee 
can tell me all about it, fur I do hate Kit's wife 
to be spoken evil o' and no one by to defend she." 
Her cunning old eyes glanced sideways at Love- 
day, who laughed outright. 

" I do b'lieve mysel' as her is nothin' short o' 
a whore, and there's more nor one as 'ull bear 
that out, sure 'nough. Well, my blessed ! how 
long have 'ee been standing there, Mrs. Trenow- 
eth ? " as her eyes rested on the open door where 
Janet stood. All three women started guiltily 
and smiled in a constrained way as they looked 

58 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

round quickly at Kit who was wide awake now. 

" I've just come," said Janet. 

She advanced into the middle of the kitchen, 
and as she stood between the door and the win- 
dow the last rays of the setting sun lit up her 
strong face and tall figure and seemed to throw 
the other women into shadow. Her loose simple 
gown of blue linen, such as is worn by fisher 
folk, was caught at the waist by a twisted band 
of dark red sateen which threw into relief her 
well-developed breasts and sloping hips. The 
muscles of her arms could be clearly traced 
through the bodice sleeves which were somewhat 
shrunken with constant washings. She turned 
her large dark blue eyes upon the little group 
before her and smiled easily and pleasantly at 
the three women. 

She was evidently quite unconscious that their 
talk had been about her and asked kindly in her 
deep voice : 

"And how are you, mother? And Kit?" and 
her eyes met her husband's gaze and then fell 
as he smiled at her. 

The two women got up immediately and said 
goodbye amid the head- shaking of the old 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 59 

woman. When the door was shut behind Nan 
and Loveday, whose chatter could be heard above 
the clatter of their shoes down the village street, 
Mother Trenoweth hobbled off to her bedroom 
muttering : 

" Lordy ! Lordy ! " adding in an awe-struck 
whisper, " The devil' s in it, I b'lieve. Janet a 
oh ! oh ! Loveday cain't mean that, sure 'nough, 
but I'll find out, yes, I'll find out, and if the 
beauty should turn out to be only a strumpet, 
a'ter all, it's no more nor can be expected from 
up-'long folkses." 

She banged the door of her room and sat down 
in her chair by her bed, put oil her glasses and, 
sighing deeply, drew her old Bible towards her, 
and read her usual evening chapter. After this 
was finished, a feeling of inward peace and satis- 
faction stole over her, irradiating her old 
sallow face, for she realised now that the Al- 
mighty had indeed laid a mission upon her 
shoulders, the mission of sifting to the dregs the 
unknown nature and ways of her daughter-in- 
law, Janet. She rocked herself to and fro and 
felt the exaltation of a religious fervour stealing 
over her; it gradually aroused hunger in her, 

60 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

and she hoped that the husband and wife would 
soon call her to eat some of Janet's " coddles." 

Husband and wife, however, were evidently 
in no hurry to summons her, and she had plenty 
of time to digest, not only the scriptures, but the 
village gossip of the afternoon. 

When Janet was left alone with Kit she had 
gone quickly over to him and taken him up in 
her arms as if he had been a child and laid him 
on his couch. She leaned over him and put her 
soft warm hands on each side of his head as she 
kissed his eyes. 

" Poor old man ! " she murmured. " How tired 
you must be ! Here ! let me shake your pillows, 

He grasped her hands tightly in his and then 
passionately kissed them, laying them one over 
the other. She moved away a little nervously 
as she glanced at his feverish eyes as if she 
dreaded his next movement. Then, almost im- 
pulsively, she turned back to him again a mo- 
ment afterwards and said : 

" I've brought your oil, Kit." 

He looked at her, glad of the chance to do so. 

"How long will it last this time?" 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 61 

" A week, and then," stammering, " I'm to go 
for a larger bottle which will last a month or 

She turned her back to him and raked the 

"Had a good time?" 

" Yes : and you ? " 

" I've had those damned women at my elbows, 
I b'lieve, all the day long," with an impatient 
shrug. " For heaven's sake, keep they lot out 
now. It's time I was dead and buried, I'm 
thinkin', to be left alone wi' a passil o' petticoats 
who mag their tongues out and my ears off; 
don't 'ee think so?" 

He looked eagerly at her and saw her large 
brown hands clenched as she looked at him. 

" Dunnot say that," she muttered, in her low 
voice, and a quick red glow seemed to shiver for 
a moment over her face. He noticed it. 

" You're warm wi' liftin' me, lass. We'd bet- 
ter get Sandy Dick to come in at night-fall to 
save 'ee; don't 'ee think?" 

" No ; you munna do that. I like to lift you 
you know that, mon." 

He smiled. 

62 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" I'd give near all the rest of the life left to 
me if I could lift thee now lass ; yes, now, this 
minute, clean and straight i' my arms. I'd run 
wi' thee round the room, catch thee close and 
fast and hard to my heart and smother thee 
close and warm wi' all the love in me for thee. 
I wouldn't let 'ee stir no more nor a starling in 
a trap. I'd mak' thy cheeks burn wi' another 
sort o' colour. By God ! Janet ! I'm near choked 
wi' it all ! It's worse nor hunger or thirst, wo- 
man, that it be, this love I have for 'ee." 

She stood before him, trembling, her long, 
brown hands hanging by her sides. Her eyes 
were lowered, and once or twice she seemed to be 
going to speak but the words never came. At 
last she moved her hands, clasping them in front 
of her, and Kit's eyes followed the action. He 
had often wondered why her hands had such 
power over him ; they tortured him with desire 
more than her face or her tall lithe body. He 
looked at them now, and a great love-storm 
seemed to shake him. 

" Come." 

He held out his arms. 

She stood still and said brokenly: 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 63 

" I want to talk quietly to you Kit, inon ! 
Summat strange has happened me an it's to thee 
I want to tell it." 

He seemed not to hear ; his eyes were fixed on 
her strong, keen, face ; he looked like a thirsty 
man who has found a well of water after hours of 
wandering ; he laughed at last, a low, happy 
cooing laugh. 

" Thou't a beauty, Janet ; it gives me a sum- 
mer's day feelin' to look at 'ee, sure 'nough. 
God Almighty chucked away the mould, lass, 
after he'd made thee. I reckon he'd grudge 
thro win' thy sort out by the gross. 

He folded his arms across his breast and eyed 
her hungrily. 

" From head to heel there ain't a flaw in 'ee, 
not one." 

She blushed hotly and he laughed again. 

" That's it. That's like the old days when I 
were so hot, and you were so scared ; do 'ee mind 
they days ? Damn it all ! You're the only maid 
as 'ave mazed me ; do 'ee mind how I used to 
get so crazed over your white flesh that 'ee 
thought I was not exactly more nor once't ! 
Come ! " 

64 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

She came and sat on a low stool near him. 

" Do 'ee mind how one night I was so crazed 
wi' joy and love that I knelt down and prayed 
like a passon ? Do 'ee mind how the words came 
pourin' out thinkiii' of Him as had made women 
and made 'em so different to we, do 'ee mind? 
and how at last 'ee pulled me by the sleeve and 
tried to cool me down, for 'ee said I were 
blasphemin' ! " He laughed loudly now ! 
" Well ! by God ! I've felt different over women 
folkses ever sin' then; there's a darned lot o' 
miracle work, strikes me, goin' on i' women as 
perhaps God hissel' scarcely reckoned on when 
he started 'em." 

He was mechanically twisting and untwisting 
the button of her dress bodice. She took his 
hand once as if to hold it in hers, but he kissed 
them, clasped as they were, and went on playing 
with her gown. 

" I must seem a poor whishe creature to 'ee 
now, Janet," he went on, " it do fret me near to 
maziness, in these June days when the sun's so 
warm and the birds sing. I'm no good to 'ee. 
Damn it all ! Nothin' but a bit o' man wreck. 
Best do wi' me what government made we do wi' 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 65 

the big stranded vessels on th' shore ; blow 'em 
up wi' dynamite to mak' room for other things." 

" Thou has been too long alone, lad," she mut- 
tered, and her eyes wandered to his shrunken, 
crippled legs. " I'll soon set thee right again. 
Thou knows," with a quick jerk of her head, 
" that I shall never do aught but love thee." 

She blushed and moved quickly towards the 
hearth and put a saucepan of water on the fire 
for making him a "coddle" before he went to 
bed. As she knelt on the hearthstone with one 
knee bent under her, Kit's eyes rested on her 
bare neck and bent head. A soft dark down was 
traceable below the mark where her hair stopped 
growing and added to the curves of her 
throat and neck. Just now the droop of her 
head seemed to madden Kit. Her absence and 
his nervous irritability after the scene with his 
mother had told upon him. He rose up on his 
couch, his eyes sparkling and his hands twitch- 

" Come here, wench." 

She turned quickly and walked over to him 
with an enquiring look on her face. 

" Come here ! " he repeated, and he glanced 

66 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

towards the door through which his mother had 

"Lock that ! let's have five minutes free from 

She slowly did his bidding and came back 
with a puzzled look on her face and then knelt 
down by him and stroked his hand, which was 
twitching nervously. 

" Come, Janet ! " 

His voice grew hoarse with passion and excite- 

" Janet ! " he almost yelled as he pulled her 
face down to him, fiercely gathered her head on 
his breast and buried his hand beneath the hair 
above her neck. He stroked the cheek and ear 
and then pressed his hand once more on the warm 
neck as if he would never let her go. He 
breathed heavily : 

" I'm a blasted fool, my girl, but I'm mazed 
wi' love of 'ee. Quick ! put thy arms tight round 
me, tight, and tell me," and he flung back her 
head and looked into her eyes " tell me, 
woman, that i' spite of old women's mag and 
my smashed limbs you do love me," with his 
teeth set, " love me as a woman loves a man." 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 67 

Janet simply looked into his hungry face, 
gathered him to her, as a woman would a child, 
and said in a low, quiet voice : 

" Thou knows that I love thee, Kit as as " 
she hesitated " as a limb o' my own body." 

He lay back calmed for a few moments and 
then he said wearily : 

" It's a chiel. That's it. Devil tak' it all. Give 
me my pipe or I s'all do and say more i' a minute 
nor I can mak' amends for in a year." 

She went over to his chair by the fireside, got 
his pipe and took it from its shelf very slowly 
and deliberately. She turned once more towards 
her husband. Her face had grown grey and hard, 
and her firm lips quivered slightly. The finely 
cut nostrils were dilated and the dark blue eyes 
had grown larger and brighter. As she met the 
full gaze of Kit's eyes she advanced rapidly to- 
wards him and threw the pipe on the couch by 
his side. 


His name was uttered with such bitterness 
that he started and looked full at her once more. 

" Kit ! dunnot let me hear thee speak o' that 
again. Do you mind what I say ? Never ! 

68 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

There's some things I'd dare the angels to talk 
over to me, that's one." 

"Why?" he muttered. 

She stared at him and a look of repulsion min- 
gled with the pain in her face. 

" Because," she answered quickly, " because it 
do never do to think o' some things, that's why. 
It's best to throw them in the back o' your head 
and forget they're there, and there let 'em wait 
till the day when reckonings are made up." 

She turned aside and shrugged her broad 
shoulders. Kit watched her closely as she went 
over to the fire and stirred her " coddle." He had 
lighted his pipe and was smoking hard. He 
watched her put the things on the table for their 
evening meal and he did not attempt to speak to 
her. At last he saw her lean her hands on the 
table and, looking at him again with the same 
worn hard look, she said : 

" I hate a coward, always did, either among 
wenches or lads, and when I do think o' that," 
with a gesture, "I'm a poor, weak woman 
who'sd not fit to work nor do for others." 

The man sighed. 

Janet turned her back on him and took from 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 69 

the fire the boiling pot, washed her hands quickly 
at the sink, and as she wiped them she again 
came over to Trenoweth and said to him, in 
a weary patient voice : 

" Dunnot think I feel hard against thee, lad," 
she said gently. " Men's made all different to 
women, I believe ; a woman 'ud guess my mean- 
ing at once. Men's more like dogs, I reckon. 
Very knowing and all that, but women's souls 
more nor their bodies wants to breed." 

He looked puzzled, and she laughed as she 
kissed him once more on his eyes. 

" Never mind, old man ; I've been dumpy to- 
day, but I'm tired with the journey and seein' " 
she hesitated " new things. It's better to bide 
to whoani with thee and then I doan't get moi- 
thered," she said, falling into her native Lanca- 
shire tongue. " Here ! let me rub your legs and 
then you can have your bit o' supper and be 
comfie again. I be only making things worse 
for you now, and there's lots I want to tell you 
after you're rested." 

She forced herself to be gay, and he gradu- 
ally fell into her mood and calmed down into 
playful tenderness, forgetting his doubts and 

70 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

misgivings in the enjoyment of being ministered 
to by this wife of his who had given him new life 
and strength already. His doubts, however, 
were only lulled for the moment, for his last 
intelligible thought as he fell asleep that night 
was that women folkses being such " tetchy and 
unbeknown creatures," it would be just as well, 
if the chance came, to see what the " passon " had 
to say about a thing or two which addled his 
poor brains so continuously that he could get no 
peace or sleep for the thoughts which came to 


As if fate willed it, Parson Trownson called 
during the following week at Kit Trenoweth's 
house. Janet occasionally attended his church, 
and as he had a village children's treat coming 
on, he dropped in, on his way to a sick parishion- 
er, to ask Mrs. Trenoweth to help him with one 
of the tea tables. Kit not being a churchman, 
he had seen little of him at any time, and when 
he entered the kitchen, as no answer came to 
his knock, he was surprised to find Kit alone and 
in such a helpless condition, as he had never 
realised from Janet's brief accounts of her hus- 
band's health that he was a cripple. He ad- 
vanced towards the fireplace and said in a cheery 
voice as he removed his hat, in the sprightly 
tone the healthy so often use to the sick : 

" Well, my good fellow, and how are you ? " 
He extended his hand with a smile which com- 
( 71 ) 

72 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

bined the patronage of the gentry with the pro- 
fessional sympathy of the cleric. Kit shook it 
heartily and said curtly : 

" I'm glad to see 'ee, Mr. Trownson. I've 
long been wantin' fur to see 'ee, for I souldn't be 
frightened but what 'ee could help me out of a 
bit of a puzzle I'm bothering my head wi' most 
all my time." 

" Yes, yes ; just so ! " said the friendly parson, 
separating the tails of his long coat as he glanced 
hastily at the wooden chair near him and seated 
himself on it. " Certainly, certainly. Are you 
in any spiritual difficulty, my good fellow ? " 

He coughed, bit his under lip with a slight 
smile on his face and folded his arms in a re- 
signed manner. He was so accustomed to the 
commonplace travailings of these simple souls, 
who wanted points of doctrine settled for them, 
in the same decisive way as their doctor's nos- 
trums were handed over and bolted. He felt he 
could have closed his eyes and mumbled out the 
very words this simple miner would say. He 
was kind-hearted and felt for fisher-folk as he felt 
for his dogs or his horses when he was obliged to 
deprive them of liberty or to punish them. He 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 73 

tilted back his chair and crossed one leg over the 
other as he looked complacently at Trenoweth, 
with the smile growing in his eyes as he waited 
for him to speak. He almost lost his balance, 
and fell from his seat when, instead of the usual 
commonplace query regarding heaven or hell, 
Trenoweth asked him in a stolid slow way : 
" Have 'ee ever had a wife, sir? " 

What, in God's name, he said to himself, is 
the blundering idiot driving at ? Is he mad or 
bad or only curious ? His face paled, and a ner- 
vous little laugh rippled away the merriment 
from his eyes and mouth. What had the fellow 
heard ? What could be his object in cornering 
him suddenly in this way? He glanced quickly 
at him, and then dropped his eyes. 

" My good fellow, what do you mean ? " he 
asked sharply and quickly. 

"Have 'ee ever had a woman, sir?" repeated 
Kit, stolidly. 

Parson Trownson was puzzled. He objected to 
telling lies except under very special conditions, 
conditions which came rarely into his uneventful 
life. He must either tell Trenoweth a lie or run 

74 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

the risk of unearthing his past, from which he 
had escaped when he came to this quiet fishing 
village, for the ridicule or pity of these people, 
whom he looked upon as mere children who 
could not be trusted with the sorrows of the edu- 
cated any more than boys or girls in an infant 
school. His perplexity increased as Kit's eyes 
travelled over his well-tailored person and finally 
rested full on his face. 

" I s'ud not ask 'ee, sir, for pastime or foolish- 
ness, but if 'ee's had no dealin's wi' a woman 'ee 
cain't help me nohow as I can see, for what I'm 
botherin' over isn't put anywhere i' the Bible, 
nor yet preached on i' the pulpits leastways not 
i' my hearing of the Word. Fornication and 
adultery" the vicar stared blankly at Trenow- 
eth " and suchlike things is dealt wi' here and 
there i' the Bible sure 'nough, but there's a 
sight o' things, seems to me, beggin' o' your 
pardin, o' course, sir," with an apologetic jerk 
of his head towards Mr. Trownson, " that do 
fairly maze we unlearned folkses that ain't dealt 
wi' neither i' the Book or i' the churches or cha- 
pels. It's a parcil o' trouble tryin' to ferret out 
the Almighty's will i' some things when there's 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 75 

no chart nor pilot to guide 'ee over a difficult 
line. Don't 'ee think so, sir?" 

Trenoweth's shrewd eyes sought Parson 
Trownson's face as if he would read his answer 
there. The parson coughed slightly and said : 

" It is easy, my dear friend, to guide one's life 
in the path of duty if we are determined not to 
place our inclinations in the face of the will of 
the Almighty." 

" Yes, sir," answered Kit, slowly, and he put 
his hands in his trousers' pockets and looked 
down at his feet as they hung loosely above the 
ground. " I do knaw that, sure 'nough, but 
what I'm wantin' to find out is what is the will 
o' the Almighty. Is it the will o' the Lord that 
us should go right agin nature and throttle a 
parcel o' longings that God hissel' or the devil 
thrawed into we ? It's just that as I'm tryin' to 
find out, whether some strifin's and pushin's in 
we as sends us on whether we like it or no, comes 
from on high or from down there, sir," pointing 
with his finger to the kitchen floor. 

In all Parson Trownson's experience he had 
never before been confronted with so direct a 

76 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

question. He was bewildered and could have 
given a rapid assent to Trenoweth's next remark 
which was also a question. 

" Anyways it's a puzzle whichever way you 
look at it, seems to me ? " 

In order to gain time the clergyman deter- 
mined to question Trenoweth further and see if 
by any chance he could use stratagem in fighting 
the Lord's battle. 

" I don't quite understand you, my good fel- 
low," he answered. " Just put your difficulties 
before me quite frankly, and my advice is at 
your service. You see," he added with a smile, 
" there are many matters a little outside a clergy- 
man's province, but, of course, I will do any- 
thing I can to help you." He crossed one leg 
over the other, nursed his right knee with both 
hands clasped round it, showing, as he did so, 
the large signet ring on the little finger of his 
small right hand. Mechanically, Kit's eyes fell 
on the glittering object and he said nervously. 

" Well, sir ; look at my legs ! " 

Trownson glanced quickly at the thin crippled 
limbs of the man before him and said kindly and 
simply : 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 77 

" I'm so sorry, my poor fellow ; it must be a 
terrible trial for you." 

" It ain't that, sir ; it's this way," weut on Kit, 
in a sharper voice, " I've a fine bouncin' woman 
o' my own ; you do kiiaw she, I b'lieve ; how the 
devil is the Lord's will fur she to be fitted in wi' 
a maimed man as ain't no husband to she at all, 
and " with a growl " never can be no more ? " 

He hung his head, resenting in his heart that 
something within him forced him to tell a stran- 
ger his trouble. 

Trownson at once became interested, and the 
man in him, which was not by any means 
drowned in the mere cleric, felt great sympathy 
for Trenoweth. He began to understand his 
drift, but all he said was : 

" It's hard luck, Trenoweth." 

"It's this way, sir," muttered Kit, sharply, 
" her do belong to love me right 'nough, but her's 
whishe cause her ain't got no chiel that's the 
mischief wi' all women as is worth their salt, the 
longing to breed, and its just rubbish to say as 
it can be stopped 'cause my legs fails me ; it 
cain't no more nor a half -moon can stop makin' 
hersel' a full one when her time comes." 

78 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Trenowetli shuffled restlessly in his chair, and 
tossed the hair back from his forehead as he went 
on : 

" You see, sir, I do knaw a thing or two 'bout 
both bitches and women folkses ; they're unlike 
and yet like i' some things, but my woman ain't 
quite the general mak' o' maids ; hers a puzzler I 
can tell 'ee and twixt me and you I b'lieve her's 
a bit of a riddle to hersel'. I tell 'ee what," and 
he lowered his voice, " I reckons that i' this 
spring weather her do feel a want that's natural 
and right; do 'ee mind my meanin', sir? and 
I'm fair befoolt over it for in a manner of speak- 
in' I'm no more use to she i' this job nor a eunuch 
and that's plain speakin' ! " 

He breathed heavily and the sweat stood on 
his forehead. 

" There's no speakin' of these things i' the 
chapels, do 'ee understand, and it's they things 
as I do want to hear on more nor 'bout heaven 
just now." 

He spat into the fire and cleared his throat. 
" I do worship that woman o' mine, sir, sin or no 
sin, there it be ! Yes, worship she, I tell 'ee. The 
very sweat o' she be a lot sweeter to me than the 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 79 

scent o' the sea or the first flowers o' the year, 
sure 'nough ! I cain't help it no ways ! the very 
touch of her flesh is a bit of heaven to me ; it's 
true, sir, if I have to go to hell for the idolatry 
as we're warned agin. I don't care a pinch 
'bout what I've to lose over this breedin' job, but 
I do care 'bout she and what her suffers. Her 
ain't happy ; a natural fool can see that any day, 
and what do 'ee think can be done fur to help 
she, sir?" 

"Absolutely nothing, my good man, 
nothing," answered Parson Trownson, emphati- 
cally. " To speak quite frankly between you and 
me," and he glanced round the kitchen to as- 
sure himself that they were alone, "I think 
you've altogether exaggerated the situation." 
He waved his hand in the air as one accustomed 
to disperse doubts and lawlessness at a word. " It 
is probably because you spend so much time 
cooped up in the house." He drew his chair 
closer to Kit and said emphatically in a lowered 
voice : 

" These matters are very delicate ; in fact they 
scarcely bear talking over under any circum- 
stance. In your case, my good friend," he 

80 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

looked quickly at Trenoweth, " the matter is 
exceptionally painful, but as a matter of fact 
there is absolutely nothing to be done. I can, 
however, console you thus far by assuring you 
that women's natures are quite different from 
ours ; indeed it is a kind of profanity to think 
that could be otherwise. The chief object of 
man's chivalrous care of women lies in the fact 
that he feels this and in his guardianship of 
her acknowledges her spiritual superiority to 
himself. A woman craves to have a child ; 
quite so, quite so," with a condescending wave 
of the ringed hand, " it is a wonderful dispen- 
sation of Providence that your wife, whom I 
know to be an admirable woman, should have 
this wish it is one of the most glorious designs 
of God, the desire to suckle children, but" 
he coughed once more and a slight smile made 
his lips twitch " but, my good man, you don't 
suppose for one moment that women have ani- 
mal passions like ours, that they are radically 
lawless and savage or even temperately animal, 
as men are, do you?" 

" Yes, by God ! " snorted Kit, triumphantly, 
" when a woman's suckliu' a chiel at her breast 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll, 81 

I b'lieve her do like the feelin' right 'nough, 
sir. I've seen women fit to bite the baaby wi' 
joy over that job, like maids bite their sweet- 
hearts sometimes when they love 'em most." He 
snorted and laughed fiercely. " I've never had 
no dealin's wi' sprites nor yet wi' angels i' my 
coortin' jobs, I can tell 'ee. There's summat 
behind the beast i' a woman I reckon, as makes 
she such a powerful riddle to we men folkses, 
but if it's the beast as you're scornin' i' men 
I'm thinkin' you'd have to use the same birch 
to get that out o' the women folkses as well as 
out o' we." 

Trownson positively blushed, and thought to 
himself that, after all, the common people were 
moulded in totally different ways from the well- 
born. He simply put down Kit's statement as 
the summing up of a village rake, and the man 
became lowered in his eyes. 

" Has your wife ever expressed any ahem ! 
dissatisfaction with her present life?" he que- 
ried with a touch of contempt in his well-bred 

Kit laughed brutally. 

" What do 'ee tak' me fur, sir ? Do 'ee think 

82 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

as I sud be tellin' 'ee these fears o' mine if her 
mouthed like a ninney to me ? No ! 
she beaii't no blabber, I can tell 'ee, 
but I do see things ain't right, that's 
all, and there's summat working i' me as 
I'm not learned enough to understand nor yet 
to deal wi' ; that's all, and that's why I've 
coomed to you, 'cause they tell me that college 
gents knaws a power o' things as we folkses as 
works hard don't knaw nothin' about." 

" This is scarcely a matter to do with colleges, 
Mr. Trenoweth," the parson replied ; " it really 
is a very simple affair if you will only look at 
it in the right light." 

He lifted his left hand and forced back the 
thumb with the forefinger of his right, as if to 
jot off conveniently the several methods by 
which the world, the flesh, and the devil could 
be brought into complete subjection. He 
folded his arms together again after a moment's 
reflection and slightly raised his shoulders as 
he continued. 

" You imagine your wife is restless, and your 
mind is a little overstrained with your physical 
trouble. Talk to her frankly ; that is, as frankly 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 83 

as one can to a woman, and she will doubtless 
soon prove to you that your fears are groundless. 
A true woman finds her only happiness in her 
husband's welfare, and Mrs. Trenowethis surely 
an exemplary character in this respect." 

"Tool don't understand, sir. I must be 
forthright wi' 'ee, I can see. Janet, my woman, 
be no giddy spark of a jade, nor yet a bluidless 
fule, I can tell 'ee. Her seems to have taken 
some o' the beastly lustful devil out o' me, and 
put some of her own breed in; it's her nature 
more nor my own as is workin' i' me now, I 
reckon ; it's like yeast movin' in me, the wish 
to see she well and happy again as her do belong 
to be." He beat the sides of his chair with the 
bowl of his pipe as if he were impatient. I'm 
wonderin', sir, whether her oughtn't to have 
another man, one as 'ud be a strong sweetheart 
to she and not a putty man like I be. What 
do 'ee think?" 

Trownson became very grave, and his lower 
lip hung loosely. 

" Are you so unhappy as this, Trenoweth ? " 
he said at last, changing his tone to one of almost 
equality. " Is that your only remedy ? Do 

84 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

you seriously meditate allowing your wife to 
proceed to such lengths as that? No womanly 
woman could do it no ! no ! no ! " with a shrill 
tone in his voice and a glitter in his eyes ; "it 
is only women who have forgotten God and duty 
who do such things. I thought Mrs. Trenow- 
eth understood the eternal sanctity of the mar- 
riage bond better than that." 

Trenoweth laughed. 

"We ain't married, don't 'ee see, sir? Not 
no more, in a manner of speaking, than if I was 
a corpse." 

" Ahem ! " coughed the bewildered parson 
" don't you see, my good man, that marriage is 
a divine ordinance? It is not a mere animal 
relationship, a mere dog and bitch partnership." 
He looked askance at Trenoweth, thinking his 
analogy a little too strong for the occasion. " It is 
a communion of souls, a twining together of sub- 
tler needs than can be expressed ; a union not 
only for time but for all eternity. To profane 
this is to risk eternal punishment ; not, of course, 
in the ordinary hell-fire sense," with a smile, 
" but the punishment which comes to all those 
who break great spiritual or moral laws. If 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 85 

your wife violates your union for a mere physical 
whim, she dishonours not only you, her husband, 
but all womanhood, by the unchaste desires to 
which she falls a prey." 

Trenoweth had begun to smoke. 

" Seems to me, sir, beggin' your pardin o' 
course, as you think a damned lot o' the dog and 
bitch part o' the business, a'ter all. If my wo- 
man lived wi' another man as she could love i' 
that way, and he her, there's no call as I can see 
for she to hate me nor yet to thraw me on one 
side like a worn out sack. Seems to me as if her 
could do that her'd have got pretty well rid o' 
all they grand spiritual feelin's as you seems to 
set such store by. It all sounds so grand and 
all that, the way as you puts it, sir, but I cain't 
help readin' of it all backwards someway. I'll 
gie 'ee the straight tip. I ain't no husband to 
she ; that's sure ; the question I want fur you 
to answer fur me is, am I to tie she fur the rest 
of her natural life to my whishe legs same as 
women folkses is said to tie chiels to their apron 
strings? Now speak straight and fair, sir, as 
man to man ; do 'ee think it's in the natural 
way o' things that her'll go on lovin' me if I do ? 

86 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll, 

I think of it all till I'm scared lest her'll long for 
heaven jist to get free a bit to pick up wi' a 
different mak' o' chap, and then, what the devil 
'ull be the good o' all this holdin' o' her in? " 

He smoked fiercely, and sent grey rings chas- 
ing one another into the ceiling. He watched 
them for a moment and went on without taking 
his eyes from his pipe. 

" You may whistle to love, seems to me, and 
hoot to she too, till you're black i' the face, and 
done i' the lungs, but her's a wayward minx, her 
be ; her'll come if her wants, and her'll go if her 
wants, and neither passons nor yet lawyers, so 
it seems to me, cain't put no salt on her tail, wi' 
all their fine talk and braggin'. It's my opinion 
as there's a lot o' trash talked over these things 
by they folkses who'se never had their heart- 
strings tugged." 

Kit spat impatiently on the floor and sighed. 
He went on slowly as no answer came from the 
bewildered cleric. 

" It's that sort o' lesson a feller learns when he 
graws. to love a woman better nor hissel' and 
I'm fast coniin' to think as books cain't tell 'ee 
much about it. I've thought o'er a sight o' 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 87 

tilings settin' here, sir," and he pointed to the 
bench near him as he rested his elbow on the 
arm of his chair. " There's somethin' i' my 
woman's flesh as not only crazes the man i' me, 
sir, but gies me a power o' new insight alto- 
gether. The dog i' me, as you spoke on jist 
now, 'ud kennel she for my own uses ; I often 
feel as if I could snatch she and tear she i' bits, 
in a manner o' speakiii', like a wolf rends a man, 
but there's somethin' new got hold o' me lately ; 
I guess it's the man and not the dog, sir, and 
it's made me think o' things more." 

He went on dreamily as if talking to himself. 

" If her heart and body turns to another chap 
let she go to en and have it fair and square 
a'tween us, that's what I do say, but I'm be- 
foolt o'er the job at times, and wonder if I mean 
rightly what I do say, and if I s'ouldn't be the 
fust to whistle she back." 

" My good man," interrupted Trownson, 
" you're talking simple balderdash, if you'll ex- 
cuse my directness there is no law human or 
divine which could countenance such an absurd 
solution of your difficulty. It is highflown and 
morbid to an almost insane degree. Do you 

88 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

seriously mean to imply that you have some idea 
of letting your wife ahem ! cohabit with 
another man while keeping up a semblance of a 
relationship with you ? " 

He pushed the air vigorously with both hands 
as if to turn back into the Inferno such mad, 
bad ideas. He was interested in Trenoweth in 
spite of his erratic and what he considered dan- 
gerous views, but he was rapidly coming to the 
conclusion that the man was nearing the verge 
of insanity, and he made up his mind to give a 
hint to some responsible person to note the case 
for fear of evil consequences coming to the young 

Trenoweth spoke with an effort. 

" If you loved a woman, sir, loved she a good 
length beyond your own soul, and then you lost 
she, my meanin' is, lost she i' the way as she 
couldn't be your wife, would it make you hate 
she, sir?" 

The parson merely coughed, and smiled 
faintly. Trenoweth continued in a stolid way : 

" If, I say, straight and square, mind you, to 
my woman : Look you here, wench ! If you do 
belong to care anyway for some chap and want 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 89 

en, tak' en, but let's have it square and high 
and dry above board and no shammin' is that 
ridiculous? Well! that's but my meanin', sir. 
If," he pointed a long thin finger at Trown- 
son ; " mind you, I say, if my woman s'ud want 
a husband as well as a mate like me, I don't 
see, if 'ee looks at it fair and square, why the 
devil her sudn't have en, and not only that, why 
s'ud her be asked to leave me out 'cause of it? 
Ain't no folkses chums at all when they cain't 
do the honeymoon business any more? Ain't 
none o' they big folkses as can go into court and 
get unwed never friends no more ? " 

" I should assuredly say not," sternly replied 
Mr. Trownson. 

" Then, sir, beggin' o' your pardin, there's 
suinmat wrang i' the way the things is fixed up 
i' the marriage laws down here, and I do fer- 
vently trust that up-'long," pointing to the ceil- 
ing, "there'll be a new line o' conduct over 
sich things. Yer don't seem to see, sir, as Janet 
'11 allus love me, and her could no more leave 
me out i' the cold like a pauper wi'out love to 
warm me than if I'd come right out o' her body." 

" I suppose you understand that what you are 

90 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

suggesting is an abomination, not only in the 
eyes of God, but in the eyes of all good men ? " 

" Abomination," stammered Trenoweth ; " to 
love your woman better nor yoursel' do you 
mean that?" 

The parson waved his hand 

" That is begging the question ; it is not lov- 
ing a woman better than yourself, but simply 
opening the door to lustful desires and weak 
sentimentalities. If such preposterous actions 
were countenanced by law, what on earth do you 
think would become of the family the founda- 
tion of our Nation's happiness and prosperity? " 

" We ain't got no family, sir, that's the touchy 
bit in it all, don't 'ee see ? " 

" Yes, yes ! " testily answered the cleric, " but 
laws are made for the many, and these courses 
of conduct that you suggest will assuredly un- 
dermine all family purity and domestic peace. 
Indeed ! such ideas can only be the outcome of 
evil thoughts and lascivious desires." 

"Then, sir," answered Trenoweth sharply, 
" all I can say is I'm danged if the wicked uns 
ain't got a tip or two from up atop that the big 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 91 

wigs kiiaws naught about. Do'ee mean to say 
straight and fair to me, sir, that it's wrang to 
love a woman so that you could hand her over 
to a bit o' joy that you ain't in, in a way of 
speakin', only lookin' over the hedge at the 
pairin' you've set 'eesel' to see through? Do 
'ee belong to tell me as it's sin in she to go to 
a second man unless first of all she do hate the 
first? That the only way for she to do over 
this job is to lie inside and out, both to me and 
to hersel', cause her cain't crush feelin's as the 
Lordhissel' blesses, we're told, if only the passon, 
beggin' your pardin again, bosses the show ? If 
'ee can say as I'm wrong to feel like this o'er the 
job well, I'm sorry I coomed to 'ee for help, 
for, in a manner o' speakin', I feel now almost 
as if love have teached me 'bout as much, and 
likely more, nor the school and the Bible to- 
gether seems to have teached you." 

Trownson was about to answer Kit in an 
authoritative manner, as he was nettled at the 
change of tone in this miner. In the begin- 
ning of the interview he had noticed the defer- 
ential manner of Kit towards his superior, and 
he resented as an insult the straight speaking 

92 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

and calm smoking of this lover and husband 
who dared to teach him as if he were a school- 
boy. The argument would probably have ended 
in a storm of abuse on Kit's side, and of sharp 
satirical expostulations on Trownson's side, but 
before the parson could open his mouth to de- 
fend himself from Kit's last attack something 
made both the men turn their heads sharply to- 
wards the door. Janet had just lifted the latch 
and she stood in the entrance a little bewildered 
at seeing a visitor with her husband. She ad- 
vanced towards Trownson, and half curtsied, a 
habit caught in her childish days, when at vil- 
lage treats and Sunday school excursions in the 
]N T orth the little ones had stood in great awe of 
the local clergyman. She greeted Trownson 
simply and stood near her husband. The cleric 
looked at her sharply, almost savagely, as he 
would have looked at Eve after conversing with 
poor Adam over the apple-stalk in his hand. 
When Parson Trownson preached on Sundays 
upon Womanhood, he felt himself kindled by a 
divine fervour ; the vision which always came to 
him was of the pure unsullied virgin, the mother 
of little ones, the comforter and helpmate of 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 93 

man, the refiner of the world, the silent spiritual 
influence at work by the hearths of any nation 
calling itself righteous, chastening by her mys- 
tic power the baser and grosser side of humanity 
and freeing it from its animal lusts and stupid 
gluttonies. His ideal of Woman carried him 
often beyond himself, and he rose on tip-toe per- 
spiring with the effort of his own eloquence. But 
this view of woman which Trenoweth had pre- 
sented to him, a view sordid and gross, this gave 
him a feeling of physical nausea as he looked 
at Janet. Woman personified in this man's 
wife, not only as a breeder, but as a conceiver, 
not as one who submits meekly and of necessity 
to the sacred work and pains of motherhood, 
but as one who craves and demands the lawless 
play of physical enjoyment ! Bah ! His spine 
began to creep at the vulgarity of Trenoweth's 
description and the rank materialism which his 
words had implied. He turned curiously and 
looked at Janet as she faced her husband to tell 
him where she had been. He noted her length 
of limb and her rounded bust, the swing of her 
hips as she moved Trenoweth higher and put 
his cushions closer to his back. He began to 

94 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

think he was the victim of some horrible mag- 
netic suggestion, for he felt a tingling sensation 
creeping over him as he gazed at the woman 
before him. 

Janet turned quickly from her husband, and 
her blue cotton skirt swung in a graceful curve, 
exposing her well-shaped ankle and foot. The 
vicar got up, looked hastily at his watch and 
extended his hand to Trenoweth, saying in a 
hurried voice : 

" A little cooling draught at this time of the 
year would be very useful to you, my good 
fellow ; try it ; magnesia or 

He stopped abruptly, smiled in a constrained 
way as he turned to Janet: 

"Good-bye, Mrs. Trenoweth. Ah! I leave 
your husband in the best of hands ; he is fever- 
ish feverish and over-excited, and you will 
doubtless calm him " Janet raised her dark 
eyes and looked at Trownson gravely. 

" Thank you kindly, sir," she said simply, .and 
held out her hand. The vicar clasped it, and 
when he was in the street he mechanically put 
the hand she had held inside his clerical vest, 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 95 

then lie hastily withdrew it, looked at it in a 
bewildered kind of way, and muttered : 

" The deuce ! " 

As he put his latchkey in the door of his house 
he muttered stupidly : 

" Got the text anyway next Sunday eh ? 
yes of course lusts of the flesh." 


IN a big hollow on Bos Kivven sandhills a man 
lay dreaming ; the hot July sun streaming in 
full noonday force had sent him to this retreat 
among the miniature flowers and coarse grasses 
which grew in the hollows made by the winter 
gales. He had shaped the sand at his back into 
an easy seat; his legs were raised and crossed, 
one hand was thrown behind his head, and his 
deep grey eyes were gazing vacantly but 
restfully out to sea. He was puffing contentedly 
from a briarwood pipe, and now and then he 
looked at his watch, seated himself in an easier 
position and half dozed as the sun here and 
there caught him unawares in his shaded nook. 
He was a ship's mate, " off deck " in more ways 
than one, for he was lounging in a summer's 
mood, and feeling in his soul at the moment that 
to be pinned to a post was the one evil in the 

( 96 ) 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 97 

world, to be free and at ease the supreme bless- 
ing. Nancy Nanquitho was his nearest relation, 
and he had several times almost mechanically 
dropped down upon the bit of ground which held 
his own blood. He rented a room in the village, 
when he came at rare intervals, and as she asked 
him no questions he rarely vouchsafed any in- 
formation about his life. He came and went, 
as his mood and circumstances allowed, and 
Widow Nanquitho gave him on coming a wel- 
come, and on going her blessing that was all. 
To-day he had slowly sauntered towards the 
sandhills after a dinner at the village inn, which 
was calculated to make a man drowse, smoke, 
and dream that all was surely well on land and 
sea. His sun-burnt face was honest and virile ; 
one forgot to ask if it were handsome ; its 
strength and cheerfulness banished the query. 
Sea-salt and tobacco brought an air of vigour 
and repose at the same time to those who talked 
to him. Just now his pipe drew well, he had had 
his dinner, the sun shone, he could hear the sea 
rippling in on the sands; wooingly and slowly, 
as if it were too full of a noonday content to 
hurry itself even to kiss the ground. He threw 

98 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

open his coat and let the soft winds play upon 
him, and he smiled happily for he was waiting, 
without any feverish excitement apparently, for 
a woman. He looked at his watch again. She 
was late. He closed his eyes and languidly drew 
at his pipe ; he knew she would come, and a 
soft light spread over his face as he thought of 
her. Women were all alike, he mused, all 
clinging and faithful and sometimes bores with 
it, too, or he pulled his moustache at one 
corner with his under lip and bit it meditatively 
shrewish hell cats who made a man's home 
too hot for him to live in. Then he drowsily 
pulled at his pipe and reviewed his experiences ; 
he gave slight chuckles as he recalled one or two 
of his youthful escapades. Women had ceased 
to torment him for he had faced his own nature 
and its needs several years ago, and also had 
realised, so he imagined, the limitations of wo- 
men. He had invariably found them easy to 
capture ; he had, until now, felt little need for 
a permanent relationship with any of them ; 
that, he knew well enough, was a perilous ven- 
ture which might turn a life keel upwards in no 
time. He had thought at first that the woman 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 99 

for whom lie was waiting would never belong 
to him, but it had come, suddenly but surely ; 
she was his at last and he lay back in the repose 
of security and waited. He was in love, he said 
to himself, more so he believed than ever before, 
the sun shone and all was ready; what more 
could mortal man desire to make him happy? 
Love and the hot day were evidently too much 
for him. At last he slept, the deep dreamless 
sleep which comes in the open air when nothing 
pinches or maims the brain and nerves. His 
pipe went out and lay in his outstretched hand 
which was being rapidly investigated by ants 
and sand insects. His legs remained raised and 
crossed and one hand lay idly behind his head. 
The mouth, half open, revealed the strong white 
teeth of a healthy man in his prime. 

The woman for whom he waited stood by him 
and watched him, watched him with con- 
tracted mouth and heavy eyes. She had come 
to the old haunt ; she was ten minutes late and 
he was asleep. Her eyes wandered over his 
body ; the big chest rose and fell with his deep, 
regular breathing and her gaze fell on a thick 
yellow silk handkerchief, evidently of foreign 

100 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

make, which fastened the trousers round his 
waist. It seemed to affect her curiously for the 
large nostrils moved rapidly. His dark blue 
shirt was open at the throat, and the thick hair 
on his chest was moist with the summer's heat. 
The woman stood quite still as she watched the 
sleeper; he sighed once and moved round a 
little, and the big flank swelled out the serge 
trousers. She shuddered and her face paled a 
little. She took off her large sun hat and threw 
it on the ground ; he started and their eyes met. 


He sprang up, threw down his pipe and folded 
his strong arms around her. She made no 
movement and he drew her face up to his with a 
quick jerk of his hand and kissed her passion- 
ately on the eyes and mouth. 

" There ! " he said and sighed happily ; 
" there ! that's good ! so ! Now another, my 
sweetheart ! " and his eyes shone with good-hu- 
moured passion. 

She put her ringed hand on his open breast 
and pushed him back. He laughed and caught 
her closer to him in his lover's mood, for he knew 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 101 

that she was being coy with him as is the way 
with women. He glanced at her face and whis- 
pered : 

" My own girl ! so you're here at last ! How 
I've waited, you loiterer ! Come ! let's be happy 
now ! " 

" Dunnot ! " she said in a thick slow way, and 
she pushed him back again. " Dunnot, I say ! " 

Still believing that it was a mere woman's 
trick to intensify his ardour he smiled. 

" What's the row, Janet ? Has the new moon 
turned you fickle ? " and he advanced towards 
her again. 

" Dunnot," repeated Janet. " I've done what 
you said to me ; I've not told the mon ! " 

He laughed. 

" Of course not, my sweet ! it would be crazy !" 

" I meant to," she went on, " when I went 
whoam that neet, but he was strange and moi- 
thered bein' by hisseP and I couldn't get it out." 

Her hand was lowered and she added in her 
deep sad voice : 

" Somehow it all looked so different when I 
got near him ; not " hesitating and looking 

102 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

round at the sandhills and then out to sea "not 
like here i' the sun, and I were shamed, too 
shamed to think of it even." 

He glanced at her quickly. 
" What the devil do you mean, Janet," he 
asked, testily. 

"You know what happened," she said, 
slowly, as if the words were dragged out of her, 
" here, last week, you know what coomed to us. 
I were mazed, I'm thinking, mazed wi' the sun 
and and " she stammered " summat as I 
can't make out now coomed over me. I'm 
thinking," and she looked at him with glassy 
eyes, "I'm thinking rnon, as I'm about hatin' 
you and mysel' too to-day. What be I to do? 
Eh? Tell me?" 

The sentence ended in a sort of wail and she 
raised her hand to her eyes as if to shut out the 

Her lover began to think she was either ill 
or serious. He drew her gently down on the 
sand beside him and she sank into the place he 
had made for her. He seized her hand and 
pressed it between both of his her long strong 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 103 

hand which was unlike that of any other woman 
he had known. 

" Janet ! " he said tenderly, " be reasonable, 
dear! What's up? You're tired a bit, I see. 
I know you said some nonsense last week about 
telling your husband of our love affair but you 
couldn't have been serious. I knew that right 
enough, and made you promise not to tell him till 
I saw you again, just to make your mind easy. 
My sweet old darling ! it would be the maddest 
thing going to do that ! " He whistled ! " By 
heaven ! there'd be thunder then and no mistake. 
He'll never be a pin the wiser and it's not as if 
I really took you away from him, you know 
and and it might be confoundedly bad for 
him and upset him just now, don't you think?" 

" It's the lies," she said simply. 

"What lies?" he asked. 

" Lies ! lies ! it's all lies," she went on, wearily, 
" nothin' but lies ! " 

" Nonsense, Janet," a little impatiently 
" you're like all women, dear ; overstrung and all 
that. You don't think men tell their wives their 
little love affairs, do you ? " He laughed and half 
closed his eyes ; " not they, indeed ! there'd be 

104 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

awful ructions if they did, I can tell you. Then 
why should you tell him. ? " 

" I hate lies," said Janet. 

He smiled. 

" My dear ! it's too late now ; we may have 
done wrong, probably have, we may have done 
right don't believe we've quite done that but 
anyway it's done, that's certain." He looked at 
her meaningly " and the best thing now is for 
us both to hold our tongues. You particularly 
if you've any sense or nice feeling for that poor 
devil of a husband of yours." 

He picked a sand thistle and rubbed off with 
his thick forefinger the grey and purple bloom 
on its leaves, as delicate as the bloom on the 
grape. It pricked him, and he flicked it with 
finger and thumb over the ridge of sand at his 
feet. She watched him wearily and he went 

" Your husband would simply raise the roof 
off the house in a jealous man's tantrums, and 
what good would that do any of us? You can't 
help loving me," he smiled at her " I could 
not for the life of me have helped loving you ; 
here we were ; in fact, here we are, the thing's 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 105 

in a nutshell and we've got to make the best of 
it. Let's shut up this parson's drivel. Don't 
spoil a lovely day with old woman's rot, for I've 
just hungered to get you close and fast in my 
arms again. Come ! " 

The words startled her. She looked round in 
terror, and her hands shook so much that she 
clasped them tightly behind her back. 

" No ! " she said huskily " never no more 
never ! " 

" Nonsense," he said, suddenly wakening to 
the fact that he was losing her. " Don't you love 
me, Janet?" 

She turned her beautiful eyes full on him and 
laughed in a stupid way. 

" I dunnot know ; I've never axed myseP 

"What!" he retorted. "Is your body 
nothing to you that you give it for play on 
a summer's day?" 

He spoke bitterly. She flinched visibly, and 
he saw the anguish creeping all over her face, 
and making it grey. 

" I dunnot know." 

" Whew ! " he whistled. " If I thought " 

106 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

He stopped, for he had caught a strange ex- 
pression in her face as she looked at him. He 
put his hands in his pockets and looked on the 

" You've duped me, Janet," he went on em- 
phatically; "you've 

She stopped him and said roughly : 

" And what do you think I've done to you, 
mon, then?" 

He waived aside the question with a lover's 

"Do you hear, Janet? You're a flirt! that's 
sure, if you mean what you said just now. 
You've given yourself for an hour like a " 
he hesitated as he saw her eyes glitter " well, 
like other women do and then you leave me." 
his voice broke " leave me without a decent 
word to pull up a fellow's faith in women again." 

He covered his face with his hands and the 
veins had risen like cords in his thick neck, 
and she pitied him. 

"Forgive me," she said simply; "it's been 
all wrong, and I'm the worst, as you say." 

He sprang towards her and put his arm round 
her as she lay in the sand ; he blinded her with 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 107 

kisses. His breathing became quick and heavy 
and he muttered between his teeth. 

" Damn it all ! But you shan't go ! There ! 
Do you hear? You shan't go. I'll have you 
yet if I kill him for it ; you shan't waste your 
beauty on that cripple ; I'll strangle him first. 
You belong to me, Janet yes, yes, now and for 
always, my darling ! " 

He had her fast and she felt that her power 
over him was going ; the old delirious spell was 
creeping over her ; his strength and manhood 
were lulling her soul to sleep again and a 
frenzy shook her whole body. He leaned over 
her as if he would devour her ; his lips pressed 
hers closely and feverishly, and she saw the ani- 
mal rising in him beyond all control as their 
eyes were rivetted together. 

" Dunnot ! " she screamed. 

But he burst out with an oath and swore he 
would have her. Her lips tightened and with a 
quick movement she freed her hands and with 
all her strength she pushed him from her, as 
she said in a voice which made his heart beat 

" Stand up ! Thou't nobbut a coward." Then 

108 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

slowly and with, set teeth the words came hissing 
to him. " Listen ! I hate thee, I say hate 
thee !" 

He was sobered and stood up ashamed of 

" Forgive me ! " he said ; " I was mad ; but it 
was your face, Janet, and and your devilish, 
coldness !" 

" Is that how you do love me ? " 

She sighed wearily. 

"Is that how men folks love? That sort? 
You'd kill him and hurt me and only fill your- 
sel' a'ter all like a pig wi'out a ring through 
its nose?" 

"And what about you? Where's your 
love that you told me of last week ? " he said 
more gently. " You've maddened me, that's all, 
and I'm a blundering idiot to frighten you. But 
dearest, where' s your love I felt so sure of 

She looked out towards the rippling waves as 
they crept in on the big yellow sands, but she 
said nothing, only sighed as she shrugged her 

" Speak, Janet," he said quickly ; " out with 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 109 

it. Did you lie last week or are you lying now ? 
Speak, girl." 

She looked at him in a stupid way as she 
clasped the loose folds of her bodice with both 
hands ; he noticed how her dress hung on her, 
and how aged she had become. 

" I'm shamed," she said. " It were all right 
last week. What we did seemed no uglier to me 
then than bathing in yon sea, but now," she 
shuddered, " I feel a big stain on me as I cannot 
flick off noways, and I'm fain to tell the only 
one as 'ull likely forgive me." 

The man was getting bored. Women, wo- 
men, women, he thought, all the same the world 
over ; ready enough to rake up hell fire, and 
then fly screaming at the smoke and flame. He 
had foolishly imagined that Janet had "grit" 
enough in her to keep passion fresh and strong 
and free from morbid regrets and useless 
taunts. It was a great nuisance, for he really 
cared for her, and now these tantalising wo- 
men's fooleries were going to interrupt their 
pleasure. He tried to pacify her. 

"Look here, Janet, my girl! Just listen to 
me for a minute. You're like all good women 

110 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

bless you for it too nesh over these things. I 
assure you, dear, we've done no real wrong ; it's 
only your rotten straight-laced land-rules over 
these things that's worrying you. It is, indeed. 
Just look at the thing fairly for a second. Kit's 
no more a husband to you than that log of 
wood." He pointed to a piece of old mast, lying 
on the beach, which had become partially buried 
in the drifting sand. " He's done for, and 
you know it. You surely don't want to spoil his 
last years by telling him what's come between 
us. Now, that's wrong, if you like, to try and 
disturb a poor devil of a cripple who's lopped 
oft' from women and life altogether before his 

" Dunnot ! " she said. 

" The fact is, Janet, you know well enough 
the thing is done and can't be mended now, do 
what we will." 

"It's all lies," she said. 

" Nonsense ! to hold your tongue isn't lying ; 
we've got to shut our mouths over this, and that's 

" You dunnot see," she said wearily. " With 
your sort love means mostly that that " she 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. Ill 

stammered " what you and me knows but 
that ain't all to wenches, I'm thinking. Kit do 
belong to me like as if I'd weaned him and it's 
all lies I tell you," she ended abruptly. 

He looked at her closely and bit his lip. 

" What do you think will happen if you do 
tell him, Janet?" he asked, with the faintest 
trace of a sneer on his mouth. 

" I dunnot know," she answered. 

"Well, I'll tell you. If he has a bit of a 
man left in him, he'll tip some thickset mate of 
his to come and tan my skin for me ; if he's a 
mawk, it'll kill him." 

" Then why," she wailed, " why did us do it? " 

He coughed and pointed to two flies crawling 
on his hand, but she had not taken her eyes from 
his face; "why did us do it?" she muttered. 

The why was taken up by a big bee who 
buzzed the question in his ears and flew off at 
last with a whizzing sound of insect laughter. 

" You don't love me, Janet," he said despond- 
ingly as he looked into her sad eyes "not a 
bit, dear ; I've been a stupid fool to believe what 
you said." 

She shivered. 

112 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

"You came to me," lie went on gently, re- 
solved to try a different plan, "rubbed off some 
of my low ideas about love and now " he 
eyed her keenly " you throw me off again to go 
back to bought women." 

She stared at him blankly. 

" What ! " she said suddenly. 

" You see," he continued, thinking he was in- 
fluencing her, " men all take love or lust ; we're 
made like that and it'll always be so whatever 
the goody goody sort say." He laid his big 
hairy hand across his open throat; "it's here, 
there, everywhere, you know, all over a man and 
will out if he has to go to hell for it." 

"What will?" she asked. 

He laughed. 

" Why, it," he said " sex or what you like 
to call it ; I don't know what women think about 
it, but a man can't live unless he has women." 
He slipped both thumbs in the thick yellow 
folds of his belt and whistled. " Mind ! it's a 
damned nuisance and often enough it's more fag 
than anything else, but it's there, and you 
women have the whole thing in your hands. You 
pitch us into lust one day and then stand bolt 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 113 

upright like saints the next and offer us milk 
and water instead of the first red love wine." 

She blushed why, she could not quite tell, 
but her eyes fell and her hands shook a little. 

" Yes," he said harshly ; " men all take it one 
way or another; it can be bought like tobacco 
or rum; that's one sort; the other sort, I'm 
thinking, isn't much better, for I believe you 
pure women play the same game with different 
cards behind the screen." 

" I dunnot know what you mean by that," 
said Janet, simply. 

" Oh ! nothing ! only you good women are al- 
ways so afraid and ticklish about little things. 
You can never go the whole length of love ; you 
offer us sugar-sticks, and when a man opens his 
mouth to bite you scream and hide the thing 
away for fear some other sinner should catch 
you, then you see " he laughed again 
" you've made a poor devil's mouth water, and 
so he muet drink somehow, and then he damns 
himself and some other woman in quick sticks." 

She only dimly caught his meaning, but her 
face grew whiter and the large rings under her 
beautiful blue eyes darkened. 

114 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" Then I've done hurt to both of you ! " she 

" Well that's about it," he answered, think- 
ing her pity and remorse might make her yield 
to him. I wonder if you really love either of 

She sobbed. Great deep breaths shook her 
whole body. It was not the wild hysterical 
grief of an over-wrought and somewhat shallow 
femininity, but the convulsive throes of a woman 
in extremity. The man watched her and pitied 
her. Poor souls, he muttered to himself; it 
was always like this ! They irritate and attract 
at the same time. So yielding and soft and 
lovely in their utter abandonment to sentimen- 
tality of passion, and then plunged into despair 
or weakness when their own actions begin to 
work out logically. He looked at her tenderly 
from head to heel and noted her singular grace 
and strength, and a curious feeling crept over 
him, a feeling of longing to protect and to al- 
ways live with this woman who had come so 
suddenly into his life. He began to think that 
perhaps there might be a new sort of happiness 
in always being near a woman who puzzled and 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 115 

charmed him with her fresh goodness which did 
not smell of either parsons or books. He knelt 
down on the sand near her and folded his arms 
about her waist as she stood sobbing. 

" Dunnot," she said gently as she bent and 
unloosed his hands. He obeyed her at once 
and she sat down near him. He began to feel 
curiously afraid of her, and his voice sounded 
thick and unnatural as he spoke to her. 

" Janet, Janet, listen to me ! Come ! try and 
cheer up a bit ! Let's drop this confounded sub- 
ject, tell me, just once, that you care for me and 
I'll be satisfied and wait for you yes, I will, 
my dear ; " his face had grown paler. " I will, 
indeed until you feel you can come. I will, 
upon my soul, Janet, for I love you, as I have 
never loved anyone before." 

He spoke the truth and she believed him and 
smiled through her tears. 

" Thank you for that," she said. 

His eyes were grave and tender as one of her 
tears fell on his hand as he held both of hers, 
and his thick under-lip quivered. 

" Hush ! hush ! Janet : you frighten me. I 
will not hurt you nor force you ! I will wait ! 

116 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Wait for years ! but tell me, darling, just once 
tell me you love me ? " 

She stammered out between her sobs : 

" I dunnot know ; I seem to know nought 
now, nought but that I mun tell that mon ; the 
thought o' that fairly eats into me the thought 
that I've lied to him and him so straight and 
fair and good to me." 

She lay back in the sand and her sobs came at 
longer intervals. 

"You see," she said, "I knew nought about 
tilings, seemly, till last week ; I've been a wife 
all these years and yet " she stammered and 
blushed hotly " it seems now as I do under- 
stand more what God hissel' kens over women. 
I can't put it i' straight words even to mysel', 
though I've moithered my brains all night over 

The man watched her and longed to touch 
her; a sweeping rush of desire to simply kiss 
her hand took hold of him. For the moment 
that was all he wanted just to take that long 
firm hand and hold it between his in an ecstasy 
of silence, but he never moved; something 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 117 

held him back, and lie looked at her hot face 
and burning eyes. 

"What else?" he said stupidly. 

" We've longings like you," she started and 
then sat and faced him "yes, I'll say out for 
once whafs crazing me we're not cold and 
frightened like you do say ; we're just as fierce, 
just as warm and " with a gasp " just as mad 
over the flesh of what we do love as you, and 
madder, too, for we can't rend ourselves from 
what we've kissed noways no, not noways, and 
you men folkses can." 

" But you are going to leave me ? " he said, 
meaningly, as he bent over her. 

" I dunnot know," she said " I only know as 
I can never leave him no, not for no one, and 
not if God hissel' told me it were right and fit as 
I should." She clasped her hands together and 
gazed out to sea. 

" We conies to love the men as we does for as 
we grows to love the childer we has pains for. 
When I'm mendiii' Kit's coat, and I comes on 
a rubbed place like as seems to be a bit of hissel' 
I feels summat come over me as I believe is the 

113 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

same sort as men folkses feel when they've got 
a wench all to theirsel's body and soul for 
the first time. It's not fudge," she said, as she 
saw a smile in his eyes " I know it isn't for I've 
seen it i' other wenches when they're knittin' 
or puttin' up their men's baggin' i' hayin' time. 
Women live on bits o' things men needs hunks 
of everything, but our bits taste as sweet to us 
as your hunks to you." 

He scarcely heard what she said ; he was try- 
ing to understand what had come over him ; he 
looked round on the miles of yellow sands and 
then out to sea. Not a soul was near. He was 
strong, she was only a woman they were alone 
and she was absolutely in his power and yet 
he was amazed at the strangeness of the situation 
he had not even the courage to take her hand 
and hold it for an instant close to his heart. He 
gazed at her in a stupid way like a man in a 
dream and asked: 

"Did you speak, Janet?" 

" I were only saying that when a woman has 
done for a man, fettled his house for him and 
tended him and got used to his voice and his 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 119 

ways, it don't really matter if he gets crippled 
like Kit ; lie's hers she can't get free of that, 
and she can no more get loose from him than she 
can from her own guts." 

He gazed at her in bewilderment: 

" But Janet," he hesitated and added ner- 
vously; "if you really feel like that, how can 
you ahem ! love two men ? " 

She blushed and faced him and her deep voice 
vibrated as she answered quickly : 

" I've taken a whole week to puzzle that out, 
and I'm no nearer seein' things. I reckon I'll 
never find out why what were sweet and good to 
me a week ago is foul and bad to me now. I know 
nought, I tell thee nought but one thing, I 
mun tell the mon, and this very neet." 

"Then it's all up," he said stupidly ; " that's 
checkmate right enough. I've lost you ! " 

" I dunnot rightly know ; that's as you reckon 
things. I can't abide lies, and it is lies for a 
woman to cheat her mon. If I was a mon I 
would stand any thin' but that that and wheed- 
ling', which is summat like cheatin' and lyin' 
in one." 

120 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" Poor devil ! " he said, " it'll finish him." 

" You dunnot know the likes o' Kit," she 
answered sharply. " I'm shamed to go and tell 
him shamed," and her face contracted, "but 
it 'ud finish me if I went on actin' to him as 
I'm doin' now. I must bide by his will and if 
he shoves me out I canna help it, but I reckon 
he'll perhaps sum up the thing straighter than 
I can or you either." 

"It'a a confounded business," he muttered. 

" Nothin' matters like lies," she said. 

" Not even love," he answered bitterly. 

She stood up, and put her hand on his shoul- 
der ; her tight grip sent his blood hotly through 
his veins ; what would happen next ? He did 
not care ; a thrill of joy went over him as she 
touched him and he did not attempt to move. 

" Listen ! " he heard her say. " I dunnot 
know much about what goes on out yonder, in 
the big cities where you say women sells their 
bodies for nought but common brass, but I can 
tell you, this : " her eyes sought his and then 
suddenly dropped and her hand slipped from his 
shoulder; "if I hadn't felt a feelin' to you as 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 121 

seemed to come fresh and sweet from God hissel' 
I couldn't have let you come nigh me no, nor 
him neither" pointing inland. "I want you 
to mind that for his sake ; it's his wife and not 
his wanton as you've kissed. Mind that always 
and someday " she laughed softly " I'd be rare 
and glad to see you two grip each other's hands. 
Yes; I dunnot see why not, for you meant no 
wrong to me and he'll ken that fast enough, I'm 

The man looked at her and smiled. 

"And what about you, Janet; what do you 
think he'll say of that?" 

She crimsoned painfully and her voice shook 
as she answered him : 

"I'll be fair and tell him every thin' how it 
came like a great wind over me how I forgot 
even him for it how how " she put out her 
hands towards him " how somethin' carried me 
away away somethin' as I've never even felt 
for him somethin' as strong and awful as death 
itself which cast me down and made me forget 
the mon as I love best i' all the world. Do you 
think he'll not believe me ? I reckon he'll per- 

122 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

haps give me the only comfort I can get now, 
for he do love me and and he'll believe in me 
i' spite of everything." 

" You're a hopeful woman, Janet, and I'm a 
damned fool to have ever tempted you. No, I 
shall never see Kit Trenoweth ; women don't 
know men, my dear, when they can talk like 
you. You'll learn a little more by and by. 
Don't you see that if we met, if he didn't shie 
the poker at me, I should have to " he stopped 
abruptly as he saw he was paining her. " No, 
no, Janet ; you can never understand ; men are 
wolves when they really love a woman, and 
wolves don't share their choicest morsels except 
in fairy tales." 

She turned to go and he made no attempt to 
stop her. He had grown suddenly very tired ; 
his limbs ached as if with fever, and noises came 
in his ears and head. He tried to speak, but no 
sound would come ; he willed himself to walk 
towards Janet and take her in his arms, but he 
felt the sensation of nightmare ; his legs refused 
to move, and he saw as in a dream the face and 
figure of the woman who was leaving him. She 
touched his hands and he thought he heard 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 123 

her say quite close to him in her Lancashire 
brogue " Bless you," but he was not sure. He 
was sure of nothing except that he must be 
going mad, for the sea seemed to have suddenly 
crept into the sky and he distinctly saw the 
wavelets over his head and heard the dash of the 
water above him. This could only be the be- 
ginning of some horrible delusion, and he made 
a tremendous effort to shake himself into his 
usual self-possession. He moved at last and 
leaned over the brink of the sandhill where they 
had both lain. He shaded his face with his 
hands and gazed across the yellow sands towards 
the black rocks in the distance. A groan burst 
from him as he sprang to his feet, for he had 
traced her as she rounded the cliff. Only one 
idea seemed to possess him as he looked at her 
in the distance the longing that she would turn 
and wave her hands to him to give him hope to 
wait for her. She had turned towards him and 
was looking upwards. The setting sun had 
wrapped her in colour; he stretched out his 
hands towards her and waited for a sign, but 
she turned and went slowly behind the black 
ledge of rocks. The man shivered as with cold 

124 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

and cursed the fates, for lie suddenly realised 
that she could not have seen him since a heavy, 
dank Cornish mist had spread over the sandhills 
and covered from the eyes of the woman who 
stood in the glow of the sunset the figure of the 
man who watched from the hills. 


" DARN 'ee then ! " said Nan Curtis, as she 
opened her door in answer to a loud peal at the 
bell which made her jump quickly to her feet 
and leave cleaning her slab. " Oh ! my dear ! 
be it you? Darn 'ee woman! do 'ee want to 
scatter the house on my ears wi' breaking the 
bell pull?" 

She looked at Loveday and snorted, smiling 
reproof and welcome at her. " Come in, do," 
she went on, " and sit 'ee down. Why ! you're 
all o' a tremble, woman ! What be wrang ? " 

Loveday' s fat face was bathed in perspiration, 
and her eyes seemed rounder than ever. She 
pulled Nan into the kitchen, and stood facing 
her with arms akimbo and legs apart. 

" Woman ! " she gasped. " I've tumbled on 
the secret o' they weeds at last. Guess ? No ! 
'ee'll never reckon it up. Oh ! my blessed life ! 
( 125 ) 

126 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

it's worse nor awful the slyness o' the minx ! " 

She stopped for breath, and Nan, who had 
seated herself on the horsehair sofa opposite 
Loveday, folded her arms and opened her mouth 
wide, showing the yellow tusks which seemed 
ready to devour gossip and scandal wholesale. 

" "What the devil do 'ee mane, woman ? " she 
snapped at last. " Don't stan' there gapin' at a 
body but out wi' it. Is it somethin' gone wrang 
wi' Clibby Kit's woman?" 

Loveday smiled knowingly, and pursed up one 
eye in a suggestive wink. 

" Why ! the whole place 'ull knaw the truth 
afore nightfall. Mincin' jade ! wi' her fine face 
and up-long airs ; her's been seen over Boskivven 
way wi' a chap as don't belong hereabouts at 
all, and" with a gasp "they weeds is what 
I've reckoned all along, nothin' but pap to stop 
up Kit's mouth wi', and her's played the fool wi' 
all o' we, sure 'nough ! " 

She stopped a moment to pick her teeth with a 
large brass pin she took from the bosom of her 
dress, and then laughed loudly. 

" Oh ! my Lord ! I'm as glad as if anybody 'ud 
given me a mayin' to have found she out. Proud 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 127 

upstairt! as allus seemed too good and fine to 
'ave a man lay a finger on she ! " 

She folded her arms and leaned heavily on 
one leg as she continued. 

" But mind you, mate," and she stared fixedly 
at Nan, " I'm sorry for Kit, for it's a whishe 
job for he, sure 'nough I " 

" It's blasted lies, I'm thiiikin'," said Nan, 
emphatically. " I don't belong to hearken nor 
yet to credit all as I sees, much less hears ! Any- 
ways, I'm noane goin' to b'lieve that o' Janet, 
or I s'ud think as eyes was given to some 
folkses for the very purpose o' takin' in their 
own flesh and bluid. Janet be no strumpet, 
I'll be bound, and if her's walked wi' a man 
well lat me tell 'ee, Loveday, my dear, that 
noane o' we can throw mud at she fur that, fur 
I b'lieve, if my winders don't lie, as you've 
walked wi' three chaps up-'long and down-'long 
this very week." 

" Walked ! " grunted Loveday, who was not 
very pleased that her full-flavoured piece of 
news should be disparaged in this way ; " as 
likely as not I've walked wi' chaps, but noane 
o' 'ee have seed me lyin' wi' a mon naw ! " 

128 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

She delivered this speech with full force, and 
waited triumphantly for the effect on Nan. 

" Darn 'ee ! what be 'ee tryin' to do now, Love- 
day. Flingin' a woman's name i' the mud 'cause 
your own petticoats is noane so clean ! I'm 
shamed fur 'ee. A bit o' dirty or measly talk 
over neighbours is right 'nough ; it do mak' 
the day go by a bit quicker and sends a body to 
bed wi' a chuckle, and that often 'nough brings 
'ee to sleep, if you be a bit waken, but there's a 
broad difference, let me tell 'ee, a'tween a bit o' 
pastime and a lump o' malice and envy. Iss ! 
I do mean what I say," as she saw Loveday drop 
into a chair with her lower lip pouting 
in anger. " Iss ! A lot o' talk o'er that woman 
be nothin' i' the world but bloomin' spite. I 
likes she fur hersel', fur there was no talk o' 
looks when I were made, and I do belong to 
seek beauty outside my own mirror. I'd b'lieve 
flash things o' she but never what you do say 
though you swore it on your family Bible." 

" Humph ! " sneered Loveday, nettled by this 
new attitude in her friend. "If you be fur 
upholdin' they sort o' things it's git tin' time as 
you and me s'ould be seein' less o' one another. 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 129 

I allus was one as stood up fur a married woman 
cleavin' to her man even if he's no thin' but a 
bundle o' chaff, in a manner o' speakin', as Kit 
be, and it do turn my liver and guts sour to 
think o' that mincin' jade kissin' strange men 
and meetin' of 'em agin and agin unbeknown to 
honest folkses." 

Nan was alarmed for she began to fear that 
Loveday had some reason for her venom. 

" Out wi' it, woman ! Who's seen what, and 
which devil have been so close to thy earhole as 
to fill it wi' this foul talk? " 

Loveday grinned. 

" Did 'ee see me wi' Snowball Jack up street 
a while since?" 

" No ! " snapped Nan ; " were 'ee walkin' wi' 

a man then?" 

Loveday laughed coarsely. 

" Yes, woman, I were sure 'iiough, but I 
weren't lyin' i' the sand wi' 'en and kissen' of 
'en, and that's what Janet were seen doin' of 
early this arternoon, and him as seen she said 
as how he'd take his oath afore God and a whole 
bench o' jurymen as it were noane other but 

130 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

Janet hersel'. What do 'ee think o' she now 
eh ? " with a triumphant smile. 

Nan stood taut and square, and her short 
skirts seemed to bristle out from her small stiff 
body as if in protest against their owner being 
snared by a trap of any kind. She cleared her 
throat and spat in the ash pan and then dug 
her knuckles in a friendly way into Loveday's 

"I tell 'ee what I do think," she said, "I 
think that Snowball Jack, if it's him as has 
seed all this moonshine, must be a darned fule, 
for when Janet do go up-long for they weeds, 
her's well beyond the reach o' the eyeholes o' 
men as bides along o' we." 

Loveday smiled and blew her nose on the 
corner of her dirty apron : 

" No ; her's got wi'in hail for once't. Snow- 
ball Jack were sent up-long last night to Bos- 
kivven Cliff to watch fur the mackerel boats and 
to help unload, for there's shoals o' fish looked 
for thereabouts, and he were coastin' till three 
o'clock and no boats had been sighted, so he 
coomed home to once't and I jist met 'en wi' his 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 131 

mouth hot to burstin' wi' what he'd spied up- 

" He's mistook some coortin' pair fur she, I'll 
be bound. Snowball Jack, seems to me, is the 
onlikeliest man as s'ould spy o'er they things ; 
he do knaw how to court sure enough wi'out 
pryin' o'er cliffs to get new lights on that job." 

Loveday laughed and smirked as she rolled the 
corner of her apron between her fat fingers. 

" What's done i' wedlock and what's done out, 
seems to me is two different things. It cain't 
be reckoned harm to kiss and cuddle beforehand 
jist to get your hand in fur a long job by and 
bye, but when you're fully wed, seems to me, 
its worse nor devil's wark to chop and change 
one man wi' 'nother." 

" Darn 'ee, woman ! " snorted Nan, who was 
now putting the finishing touches to her slab ; 
" Go to thy home and do some chars and forget 
the lies as thee's heard, for I'm certain sure 
they're lies and that Kit's Janet 'ud do yet to 
plead for both o' we over kissin' 'bouts even be- 
fore the Throne at the Judgment time." 

Loveday stared at Nan in a bewildered sort of 
way and sighed. 

132 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" Well ! it's the first time as a neighbour 'ave 
told me to go out o' her house, and all 'cause o' 
a woman as wern't never fitey and s'ould never 
have come among we honest folkses at all. Iss ! 
I'll holler as loud as I've a mind to ; " as Nan 
put her fingers in her ears to drown the angry 
tones which Loveday' s high-pitched voice had 
taken. " I were born hollerin' and when I do 
want a mate to understand me I hollers louder 
than be natural to me. I'm fair befoolt over 
this job and I sudn't have thought as my own 
companion, as I've knawed for years, 'ud tak' 
sides wi' a loose female agin me." 

She sniffled and applied the apron corner to 
her eye. Nan rubbed away at her stove and 
said nothing for some time ; then she suddenly 
turned round, faced Loveday and yapped. Love- 
day peeped from behind her apron and sniffled 
louder than ever. Nan went to a cupboard near 
the stove and brought out a ginger beer bottle 
containing some colourless fluid. Loveday 
sobbed piteously from behind the apron and Nan 
yapped fiercely as she undid the cork. 

" Here, woman ! I canna abide to see a 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 133 

female weep ; it do allus gie me the crawls," and 
she shivered as she spoke. " Dry thy eyes, mate, 
and have a pennoth. I do keep it handy for bury- 
in' s and sudden qualms. I didn't mean any hurt 
to 'ee, my dear, not at all, sure 'nough, but I'm 
thinkin' lately when I do sit here knittin' a bit 
as its women theirsel's as strips women o' chances 
every bit as close as men do belong to do. Some- 
thin' as a artis' chap said to me back long have 
made me hutch up closer to females than I belong 
to do ; noane o' we be so mighty decent as we 
need be flinging muck at other folk ! " 

" Gosh ! " exclaimed Loveday. " Seems to 
me 'ee must be gitten' not exactly, Wan, for 
you've allus been one as 'ud uphold the tie 
'tween husbands and wives, and it's not that 
neither; its the bloomin' cheatin' of the jade 
wi' her innocent rose pink face and her grainey 
way as allus gies 'ee the notion as her be mixed 
wi' different stuff to we." She spat on the 
floor. " I do hate she ; her's never once't spoke a 
seemly word to me sin' her coomed to the place, 
and Clibby Kit's house ain't never been half the 
house fur a gossip sin' he brought the maid 
home. I can reckon the day when the old un 

134 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

had it all her own way and then it were some- 
thin' like." 

Loveday's eyes were dry now, and she folded 
her arms and put her head sentimentally on one 
side. " Oh ! my blessed life ! what times they 
was to be sure ! I've had many a tasty bit and 
many a long mag wi' the old un afore Janet 
corned and made all so different like." 

" Drat 'ee ! " said Nan shortly, " drink this, 
and don't be sparey wi' the bottle, woman ; 
you're welcome, you do knaw, and it'll happen 
mak' 'ee feel less whishe, I'm thinkin'." 

Loveday's eyes gleamed, and she took the 
bottle and poured out a small quantity of the 
fluid without adding any water to it. She 
smacked her lips and looked fondly at Nan. 

" My handsome ! it's just splendid. I could 
allus feel chirpy if I'd be sure o' gettin' a drop 
o' that once't or twice i' the week. It sends your 
blood dancin' and singin' someway and warms 
the very cockles o' your 'eart. Just a leetle sup 
more, my dear." 

Nan poured out another generous, helping, 
and then raised the bottle to the light, grunted 
audibly and put it back in its place in the cup- 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 135 

board. When she turned, Loveday had drunk 
the second dose and was standing up ready to 


" Thank 'ee, my dear." Her fat hands were 
spread over her "lower stomach," as she called 
the most prominent part of her person. " It's a 
Icvely feelin' I've got over me, like nothin' else 
as I do knaw, except," with a grin, " bein' con- 
varted. My gosh ! that is a lively thing any- 
way. You do knaw I've gone through wid en 
once't or twice, my dear, and it guv me a feelin' 
jist like I have now, a sort o' soothin' restful 
kind o' feelin' as took out all the snarls and 
crusty thoughts as I had agin everybody. Have 
'ee ever been convarted, mate ? " 

Nan showed her large yellow tusks and 

" Yes woman, but it ended i' coortship sure 
'nough, and afore the bloomin' feelin' had passed 
off I were bein' captained upstairs and down till 
I were crazy. I s'ud never 'ave been wedded, 
I'm thinkin', if I'd never been convarted, and 
I've fought shy o' the chapels sin', fur I paid fur 
that bit o' holiday feelin' for six year, and I'm 

136 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

noane goin' to put my head in the noose no 

"I commend 'ee," said Loveday, slowly, and 
then looking at ISTan in a fixed way, she said 
suddenly : 

" Woman ! that stuff as you've guv me is doin' 
me a power o' good. I've been nearly thrawin' 
mesel' over the clift this last week or two. I'm 
most mazed wi' thinkin' 'bout things, Nan." She 
laughed stupidly and sidled up to her friend and 
jerked her in the ribs. " I've been goin' a bit 
too fur wi' Snowball Jack and and " she 
laughed again ; " do 'ee reckon there's much 
good i' takiii' green tea fur to git clear agin? 
I've drunked pints o' it sin' last month when I 
were sure." 

Nan looked at her. 

" Thee be a darned fool, woman ! " 

Loveday smiled. 

" Yes, I do knaw, but it can't be helped now ; 
he guv me some stuff or 'nother to drink, my 
dear, and it were a cold dampin' sort o' day, and 
I took it to keep the creeps off of me, and " 
she sniggered, " well woman, you do knaw, but 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 137 

I'm fearin' its goin' to be a pest this time. 
What s'alll do?" 

" Do ! " snapped JSTan ; " go down on your 
marrow bones and bide your time and don't 'ee 
slime other women wi' foul names." 

Loveday whimpered. 

" 'Ee said jist now as how you reckoned wo- 
men s'ould hold by women and so," with a hys- 
terical sob, " and so I told 'ee and all 'ee can 
do for me seemly is to preach at me and I'm that 
that weary and down i' the mouth till" 
Her sobs became louder ; " till I'm not sure what 
I mayn't do yet ! " 

Nan went to the cupboard once more and 
sighed wearily as she again brought forward 
the ginger beer bottle. She planted it on the 
table near Loveday, and said sharply, 

" Finish it, woman ! " 

Loveday meekly obeyed, and wiped her heated 
face with one corner of her apron and blew her 
nose hastily with the other corner. 

" You be the only friend as I 'ave, my dear," 
she sobbed, " and I don't knaw what 'ud become 
o' me if you died or anythin' ; I don't indeed ! " 

The gin was beginning to take effect. Her 

138 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

head lolled on one side, she sank into a big 
chair, rested her elbows on its arms and looked 
stupidly at Nan who was now sitting taut and 
grave, with her eyes fixed upon Loveday, while 
her right hand clasped the empty bottle. 

" Don't 'ee stare at me like that, woman," 
whimpered Loveday. " I'm no worse nor any 
other up-'long or down-'long and neither him 
nor me's been foolin' any other body ! " She 
raised her head ; "I'd scorn to do what some do 
belong to do, play games wi' married men." 

"Darn 'ee ! husht!" interrupted Nan, 
" there's little pickin' and choosin' i' these jobs. 
It's like walnuts and red cabbage i' vinegar ; 
they're a different sort afore they gets i' the 
bottle, but when you comes to taste en arter- 
wards they're much o' a muchness." 

She folded her small thin hands together and 
sighed. Then suddenly she sat down near Love- 
day and smoothed out her gown carefully over 
her knees. 

" I've been thinkin' " she went on slowly, "sin 
I've seen more o' folkses and things that it's 
best to hold your jaw and watch a bit. No one, 
seems to me, cain't rightly blame nor yet praise 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 139 

'nother body, for it's more nor likely 'ee'll praise 
the devil and smut the saint, for some of us 'ave 
flea's eyes fur to ferret out the good and asses' 
ears for harkin' to the bad. The ways o' men 
and women is far 'nough beyond the ken o' com- 
mon folkses and I sometimes reckon that love's 
a frenzy as He as 'as made we hardly can count 
upon at all at times and " she suddenly remem- 
bered Loveday, for she had been talking to 
herself, " and it be no manner o' use fur thee 
to poison thy blood wi' green tea ; it's likely 
the will o' God for 'ee to bear the fruits o' 
thy pleasurin' and any way, even if it's only a 
bit o' sport the devil be havin' wi' 'ee it will 
happen teach thee not to grap the next bit o' 
dirty pleasure as comes along to 'ee when thee 
be too drunk to reckon wi' it." 

But Loveday was fast asleep and her snoring 
made Nan smile. 

" It's a'most as loud as some folkses singin' " 
she said, as she went over and looked earnestly 
at her companion. She sighed, and opened 
the door softly and went into the " best parlour " 
to dust it. She rubbed the mahogany frame- 
work of a high-backed chair with great vigour, 

140 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

and then stopped a moment to take breath. Her 
eyes lighted upon a portrait of a stern old man 
which held the place of honour in the room. It 
was her dead "captain," and she sighed once 
more, and as she rubbed the twisted legs of the 
chair on her bended knees she muttered beneath 
her breath : 

"Darn the blooniin' mag! it do graw like 
ferns i' the lewth, and nobody, neither devil nor 
angel, can stop en. It be like a gale o' wind ; 
yer canna tell where it do rise fro' of a suddint 
like, but it do drown a body wi'out showing o' 
itsel' or tear up the houseplace like magic. 

She glanced out of her big windows towards 
the shore. Regardless of seasons the sea on this 
summer night was in one of its wildest moods. 
Great white breakers dashed round the black 
projecting rocks and the wind hissed and whis- 
tled as if it were preparing itself for screaming 
like a crazy woman. Twilight was rapidly deep- 
ening into darkness. A draught which came from 
the loosely fastened sash of the window made Nan 
shudder ; it seemed to pierce through every nook 
and crevice of the room, and intensified the roar 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 141 

and scream of the north-east wind with its bass 
and treble groans and yells as of sorrow and pain. 
To Nan it brought strange memories. It was 
on such a night as this that the mates had 
brought in her " captain " drowned by the cold 
and cruel sea and then she had realised how habit 
and tending had bound him to her and she had 
grieved for him and half forgotten his tyranny 
and cruelty. A great gust swept round the 
house and seemed to shake it, and Nan tried 
to fasten the window more tightly. As she did 
this she saw a figure being swept along round 
the corner near her house. The woman's clothes 
were driven like sails before her, and she could 
hardly stand. Nan exclaimed as she watched 
her frantic attempts to steady herself. 

" Good Lord ! her'll be down ; 'tain't fit fur a 
dog to be out." 

She suddenly realised who the woman was, 
and she opened the hall door quickly and peered 
into the street. 

" Come ! " she said sharply ; " come, Mrs. Tre- 
noweth; "you'll be most killed wi' the wind, 
woman ! Come in and I'll git 'ee a cup o' tea, 

142 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

for I s'ould think this gale o' wind has 'bout 
blowed the brains out of 'ee ! " 

Janet laughed softly. 

" I canna get my breath," she said. " I'm 
done out, I fancy. Yes, thank you, Nan, I'll 
rest a minute to get my wind a bit." 

She followed Nan into the hall and leaned 
against the door as it was closed behind her. The 
elder woman turned and looked at her guest. 
Janet's beautiful brown hair was rumpled and 
tossed and her cheeks were red from the fight 
with the wind ; her dark blue eyes which were 
shaded by purple rings under them had a wistful 
light which did not escape Nan's keen look of 
enquiry. She was gazing into Janet's face to 
find the trail of the fiend, for Loveday's story 
had perplexed her because of its unlikelihood. 
She stared at Janet and then yapped, very gen- 
tly for her, for fear of wakening Loveday. Janet 
laughed too. 

" Oh ! " she said with a gasp ; " I've not come 
here of my own will, Nan, I've been swept here. 
I don't believe I could have stood on my feet a 
minute longer." 

" Have you walked far ? " asked Nan. 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 143 

" Yes," answered Janet sharply, " I have a 
good long way ! " 

"Seaweed?" queried Nan. 

" No." said Janet. 

Nan smiled. Then she folded her hands to- 
gether in front of her small waist, and said 
suddenly and with a genial yap. 

"Why the devil, woman, cain't I call 'ee 

Janet laughed heartily. 

" Why havn't you before, Nan ? I'd like it 
from you and and from others too," she said 

" Darn 'ee, woman," said Nan, " I wonder I've 
never thought on it afore, but its jist coomed i' 
my head like a swear word," and she fumbled 
in her gown for her handkerchief and blew her 
nose loudly. Then she laughed again and said 
suddenly and rather nervously. 

" Janet ! I'd be very well pleased to have a 
kiss of 'ee, my dear, if it do please 'ee " and the 
yellow teeth snapped together as she looked 
into Janet's face. "I fancy there be but few 
females hereabouts with your forthrightness in 
'em and I commend 'ee and like 'ee for it. Naw !" 

144 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

standing taut before Janet and putting her 
hand on her arm. " There now, I've said what 
I've wanted to say to 'ee before to-day, but a 
body do feel a bit soft like when they set to work 
telling of a woman as they do set store by she." 

She snorted and sidled up to Janet and gave 
her a gentle poke in the ribs. The tears had 
suddenly sprung into Janet's eyes; sympathy 
just then seemed to crush her. With one of 
those uncontrollable impulses which sweep over 
women sometimes as intuitions or as madnesses 
she fell on her knees at Nan's feet, clasped the 
woman's gown with her two long hands and 
bowed her head over them. Nan snorted like a 
wild creature and said thickly : 

" Lord a mercy, my dear ! git up to once't. 
What ever be 'ee a kneelin' like that to an old 
creature like me ? I'll stan' by 'ee, Janet. Iss ! 
I will. I'll keep to my word till I've passed, 
naw ! " 

The wind screamed and whistled round the 
house until voices could scarcely be heard. As 
it died away in a moan the temporary lull seemed 
to rouse Janet. She rose, and Nan, on tip-toe, 
reached to her new friend's face. She took it 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 145 

between her hard thin little hands and dwelt for 
a moment on its softness with the expression 
one sees in a beautiful woman's face as she looks 
in her mirror. Then she kissed the mouth again 
and again with the sharp quick kiss of one un- 
accustomed to tender love ways. 

" There ! " she said " that's fur always, mind. 
Folk may come and jaw but they won't draw 
the guts o' me over anything that you may tell 
me. I'll stan' square to 'ee whether I knaw or 
don't knaw all about 'ee." 

Janet smiled wearily, but she said slowly and 
almost cheerfully: 

" Thank you for that, Nan. It's a treat to 
know you mean what you say. I'm I'm " 

A sudden noise made the two women turn. 

Loveday stood in the doorway of the kitchen. 
Her right thumb was in her mouth and her face 
was vacant with drunken wonder. 

" My gosh ! " she muttered. 


OLD Mother Trenoweth was asleep. Finding 
her son silent and inclined to doze she had 
slipped from the kitchen into her little bedroom 
and had lain down with a weary sigh. The 
tempest without and her own desponding 
thoughts about Janet and Kit had brought on 
a mood which even the Big Book was powerless 
to dispel. She closed her eyes and gradually 
sank into unconsciousness. She awakened sud- 
denly from a disturbing dream, in which she 
saw Kit's legs being sawn off with a blunt file, 
to find Loveday bending over her with her 
finger on her lips. 

" Husht ! " she said solemnly, as she shook 
the old woman's arm. "I've crept in unbe- 
knowns to Kit there," pointing to the inner 
room, " he be fast asleep and looks as snug as a 
duck." She laughed roughly. " Let 'en sleep. 
( 140 ) 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 147 

poor fule ; it's the best thing as he can do, seems 
to me." 

She sat on a chair near the bed and leaned 
over towards the old woman. 

"Thy Kit 'ave got to knaw a thing or two 
when he do waken, lat me tell 'ee. Seems to me 
as his woman 'ud stank the life out o' he and 
never shed a bloornin' tear over it." 

Loveday scratched her head slowly and then 
jerked out as she pointed to the kitchen. 

" Her's been wi' a strange man fur hours to- 
day, kissin' of en and cuddlin' of en and he 
sleepin' in there like a lil baaby ; a innocent 
forthright fool he be, who thinks no hurt o' 
she and 'ud never believe the truth about she 
if God Hissel' told en it." 

The old woman sat up and twisted round to 
face Loveday. Her old thin legs hung loosely 
over the side of the bed and her two hands were 
outstretched on either side of her as she leaned 
forward and peered into the eyes of her neigh- 
bour. She sat speechless with horror. For many 
months she had tried to overtake Janet in some 
fault ; had watched and waited in the hope that 
her son's wife, through some frailty of nature or 

148 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

want of purpose, would be found to be made of 
as common clay as herself and her neighbours, 
and perhaps what had chafed her more than 
anything else was the fixed conviction in her 
mind that her quest would be a useless one. , 
Her private conviction was the same her son 
had expressed when he declared " there is no flaw 
in she." The thought that perhaps Loveday's 
words were true and there was not only flaw 
but sin in this fair saint, whom her son wor- 
shipped, almost paralysed her, and for his sake 
she now took up the cudgels for Janet. 

" Thee art drunk," she said stolidly to Love- 
day, and her old hands tightened on the white 

Loveday laughed. 

" Iss, so I be, sure 'nough, but wi' different 
stuff to a woman's face. I'm thinkin' as the 
whole place hereabouts be goin' crazy over 
Janet. Nan's brains, seems to me, 'ave got 
soaked wi' she at last, and now you," pointing 
with her fat finger at Mother Trenoweth, " why 
you, as be her natural enemy, in a manner o' 
speakin', be upholdin' of she. Why woman, 
do'ee not recollect how 'ee 'ave set me on Janet's 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 149 

tracks yoursel', amost against my own nature, 
fur to find out measley things o' she ? Well ! 
I've found out enough 'bout she to earn a Queen's 
pension, and you sit up like a image and make 
ugly faces at me 'cause I've done the very thing 
which you was longin' fur me to do. Tain't 
neighbourly, to say nothin' else 'bout it." 

She stooped and pulled up a loose stocking, 
and tied it over her knee with a bit of flannel 
edging which was frayed and black with age. 
Her face was red from the exertion when she 
again faced the old woman. Mrs. Trenoweth 
still sat in the same posture except that one 
wrinkled hand fumbled into her pocket for her 
handkerchief. She carefully wiped the corners 
of her mouth and again clasped the quilt with 
the handkerchief still in her hand. Loveday 
waited for her to speak, but her mouth was set 
and she uttered no sound. 

" Don't 'ee bear no grudge agin she now, Mrs. 
Trenoweth ? " asked Loveday sharply. 

" Iss, Iss ! sure 'nough," she muttered ; 
" but my dear, if what 'ee do say be 
true it 'ull 'bout kill Kit and and" 

150 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

the old hands were now clasped together: 
" Oh ! I'd sooner bear all the mincin' ways 
of forty false females as was ever born 
nor hurt he ! Oh ! Lordy ! Lordy ! it's a judg- 
ment on we ! it's a judgment, sure 'nough. What 
s'all us do? What s'all us do? " 

She whimpered and buried her face in her 

" Gosh ! " murmured Loveday ; " here's a job ! 
The muck's set rollin' now and the old un's 
scared at the sight of it. Pity but what we'd 
all of us held our jaws 'bout she. It do never 
do to stir a dung pile if 'ee've got a tender nose 
fur stinks. Better let it rot and pretend it ain't 
about at all. But' this pile 'ave been stirred, 
sure 'nough, and we've got to stomach it the 
best way we can." 

The old woman still whimpered and Loveday's 
face grew graver and graver. 

" I wish Nan was coomed," she said under her 
breath, " for I'm noane fitey to stank down mis- 
fortune. Look 'ere," she said suddenly, " I'll 
shut up Snowball Jack's mug o'er this job to 
once't ; naw ! though the news by now, I'm fear- 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 151 

in', will be like the floods a bit sin' gone, 
whether we will or no, right into everybody's 
door. But cheer up ; I'll do my best fur you and 
Kit, Mrs. Trenoweth, even if I 'ave to turn a 
willin' Hard over it. A'ter all, I b'lieve it's a 
good bit the itch i' me to be thought well o' as 
'ave pushed me on over this job. I've a parcil of 
proud longings in me, and I'm pretty sure as 
they 'ave spurred me on to hate Kit's woman. 
Her could 'ave given me a leg up if her'd 'ad a 
mind to but her's allus treated me like dung, 
and," with a vicious stamp, " I do hate she fur 
it, fur if you prick her finger and mine, you'll 
find the same bluid i' both o' we naw ! I've 
allus understood as you was agin her yoursel', 
too, Mrs. Trenoweth, fur many and many a time 
you and me 'ave set one another on a heat o' hate 
over she. There were a time when if her'd only 
spoken fair to me likely as not I'd have gone as 
crazed over she as Nan be now, and I coomed to 
knaw that as I walked here, for I were struck by 
Nan's way as I left. Her be like one under con- 
viction 'bout that woman, and I seed a sight 
afore I left her house as fairly catched my 
breath ! " 

152 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

The old woman stared appealingly at Love- 
day and touched her gently on the arm. 

" Loveday, my dear," looking shrinkingly 
at the door, " tell me," in a whisper, " what have 
J anet done ? " 

" What we've all done once't or twice, I reck- 
on," laughed Loveday, " kissed the wrang man." 

" It's witchcraft, sure enough," sighed the old 

"It's nature," snarled Loveday fiercely. 

" Lordy ! Lordy ! " and big tears rolled down 
the old woman's cheeks, " to think that I s'ould 
'ave lived to see my handsome a cuckold ! " 

" Why ! " interrupted Loveday, " 'ee never 
thought, did 'ee, but what were a flash 
sort all 'long? Many and many's the time 'ee 
have told me so and now, 'cause it's proved true, 
'ee seem most heartbroken over it." 

"What s'all us do? What s'all us do?" 
whined the old woman. " Kit is bound to knaw 
afore long and who'll tell en I wonder ? It 'ull kill 
en, it will, sure 'nough, dirty lyin' jade her be, 
and they 'as as spied on she be no better. I 'ope 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 153 

the Lord 'nil punish she wi' many stripes and 
wi' bitter pains." 

Loveday's face had suddenly grown bright for 
an idea had crept into her dull brain. 

" Look you 'ere, Mrs. Trenoweth," she said. 
" I'll git over this job fur 'ee. Iss, I will. I'll 
tackle Janet my own sel'," with a laugh, "and 
tell her straight and square what I do knaw. 
It'll happen then be my turn to mince a bit, I'm 
thinkin' " and her fat hands made a slender flail 
of her apron with which she flicked her knees. 
" I'll have a forthright talk wi' she this very 
night," she added gaily, " if I can only happen 
on she fur a while wi'out Clibby Kit being by, 
and I'll mark her bearing o'er this job and 
then act as it do seem best arterwards. I'm in 
agreement wi' you, Mrs. Trenoweth, and I think 
as Kit s'ould knaw 'bout this to once't, but if 
her's very repentant," with a giggle, " we might 
spare him most of it, don't 'ee see ? Howsome- 
ever I'll face the hussey and see if her rose pink 
face do flush at all eh?" 

She poked the old woman on the knees with 
her knuckles and coughed significantly. 

154 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

" Lordy ! Lordy ! " whined the miserable old 
mother as she slipped from the bed and stood 
before Loveday; "are 'ee certain sure it be 
true or is it all a tale made up by malice and 
laziness ? " 

" It be true 'nough," answered Loveday. 
" Snowball Jack see'd it wi' his own eyes and 
you'll likely enough have a brat to tend i* this 
houseplace one day fur to witness to her virtue." 

She laughed coarsely, and then said with a 
sudden impulse. 

" But I'm gittin' sharp i' the tongue agin 
and arter all, her's no worse nor others here- 
abouts ; all o' we ain't no great shakes, be us ? " 
with a quick look at the old dame ; " but that's 
the queer thing i' this job as her's no better 
nor we," and a gentle smile crept over her face. 
" I do feel more kindlier to she now someway 
than I did afore and I reckon perhaps when I've 
had a forthright mag wi' she I'll likely feel 
more like Nan do feel towards she." Then with 
bitterness as her face clouded again ; " No, I 
shain't neither, for maids and wives s'ould have 
different ways wi' 'en; I'm certain sure o' that 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 155 

for what's nothin' but a bit of a prank wi' one 
is the devil's own wark wi' the other." 

A movement in the kitchen roused both the 

" Wait ! " said Loveday, " I'll go and move 
Kit, for it's he as 'ave wakened, and is waiitin' 
of 'ee. It won't do fur en to see 'ee wi' that 
look on thy face ; it's enough to frighten the 
craws much less a man like Kit as do belong to 
read to once't in a body's eyes what's goin' on i' 
their insides. I'll say 'ee be comin' by and 
by, and do 'ee wash thy face and chirp up 
woman. Leave it all to me and I'll do fur 'ee 
as I would fur my own, naw ! " 

She opened the door and went away and the 
old woman fell on her knees by the bed and 
shaking her head from side to side muttered : 

" Blessed Lord and Saviour ! have pity on we ! 
Tak' this burden off o' we for it be noane o' 
our seekin'. Have mercy Lord, on a mother's 
broken heart oh ! be gracious " 

She was rudely interrupted by Loveday, who 
had come back and was shaking the old woman's 

156 Seaweed : A Cornish Idyll. 

arm fiercely as she knelt with her head bowed 
over her hands. 

"Mrs. Trenoweth! git up to once't; Janet's 
come, and I'm too late to jaw she ; her's kneel- 
in' like a innocent babe alongside Kit, and they 
be starin' i' one 'nother's eyes like two fools jist 
beginnin' coortship. My Lord ! that woman 
beats a play actor for shammin' ! " 


THE wind of the previous night, with its 
ghoulish yells and mocking wails, had suddenly 
stilled. Nature for a brief hour seemed poised 
between smiles and tears, and then, as the dawn 
slowly crept over the shadowy hills and the black 
cliffs she decided for shine and shimmer, and 
soon the little hamlet of Carnwyn was roused to 
greet one of those luscious days when light and 
colour transform everything. The sea was calm, 
and the little skiffs moved on its blue surface as 
if propelled by some mysterious sea elves whose 
gliding motions under the water gave it the 
saphire tinge by which mortals become soothed 
as if by fairy liltings. 

Janet watched the sunrise from their little 
window. Her breast was bare and a stray brown 
lock from her unbound hair had found its way 
to this soft warm resting-place. 

The man was asleep in the woman's arms, and a 
( 157 ) 

158 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

smile played round his lips as lie dreamed. Janet 
turned to look at him, and she smiled too as 
she drew him closer to her. The movement 
wakened him and their eyes met. She cradled 
him in her arms and he hungrily kissed her 
breast, as she folded him to her. 

" Janet," he whispered softly. 

"Well, mon," she answered. 

He held her chin between his finger and thumb 
and looked in her eyes ; then he spoke slowly. 

" I pity they chaps as uses winglocks fur to 
keep their wives fro' flyin' from 'em. This 
night 'ave beat our marriage night to fits." 

He gazed at her with passion in his eyes but 
his mouth twitched with tenderness as he went 
on : 

" I do worship thee woman wi' all my soul 
and all my body and and " taking her face 
between his hands, "if thee would like that 
chap fetched Yes ! " with emphasis " Yes, by 
God ! he shall come and dwell wi' we, and I'll 
throttle any bit o' jealous devil left in me right 
away if it'll make thee happy again." 

He cleared his throat and his cheat rose and 
fell. With a sudden movement she turned and 

Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 159 

looked at him. Her face was bathed in light, 
for the sun had now risen, and its slanting 
beams made the dust specks in the room roll and 
dance as if to keep time with the glad twitting 
of the birds outside who were busy drilling 
their youngsters for flight. 

" Mon," she said slowly, and her face was 
alight with wonderful rest and happiness ; 
" Mon, thee thee and no other art all as I want 
i' this world. Yes " as he shook his head; 
"it's truth ! If for one mad hour I lusted for 
that man as I've telled thee on, with that hour 
it passed from me as if it had never been. He 
told me hissel' as it were just that way as men 
folkses feel like often 'bout women, women, too, 
as they happen never clap eyes on again ; just 
love spasms as come and go like those of the 
beasts i' the field." She shook her head slowly 
from side to side and took her husband's hand 
in her large firm one and kissed it tenderly as 
she hung over it. As she stroked it gently with 
her other hand, she went on in a low happy 
voice : 

" Eh ! But lad ! if thy fingers were took like 
thy legs and all thy body turned white like the 

160 Seaweed: A Cornish Idyll. 

lepers the Bible tells on, dost thee think now as 
thou wouldn't be the sweetest and gradliest lad 
to me i' all the world ? " 

She fondled him and crooned over him, as she 
continued : 

<; Fur why ! 'Cause thee 've understood as no 
one else could, as yon man never would i' all the 
earth and as I can't even rightly mysel', how 
it was as I were mazed wi' life and took the rope 
length as you gave me. 

She laughed softly and closed his haiiy hand 
between her own two brown ones : 

" You may let the rope go, mon ! Yes the 
whole length of it, and perhaps 'cause you'll 
never tighten it nor yet knot it, I've a mind to 
stop. The queer part is I'm noane repentin' as 
I ought to, for if I'd never gone from thee for 
that day I should never i' all this world know 
what I know for sure now : that that " she 
hesitated a moment and then held him close to 
her breast " that it is thee, and not him nor 
yet no other, as I do love as a woman loves a 

University of California 


405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1388 

Return this material to the library 

from which it was borrowed. 


2 WEEK JAN 2 8 

IURL-LD FEB 1 6 199 
FEB 1 4 199: 


University of California, San Diego 


{ * b 1975 

9 2 RECD